At this point in the offseason, it’s very possible that Danny Ainge is beginning to think less about creating fireworks and more about the minor, in-house roster decisions that he’ll ultimately have to make. Among those decisions is what to do with Chris Johnson, who will be entering training camp on a completely non-guaranteed contract and is one of many on the Celtics’ current roster that occupy the guard position.
Johnson caught on with the team about halfway through the 2013-14 season after playing impressively over the life of two 10-day contracts. Eventually, the 24-year old made his way into head coach Brad Stevens’ rotation, playing in 40 games and averaging 6.3 points in just shy of 20 minutes per night. That kind of production might seem average at best when taken at face value. But considering that Johnson was thrown right into the fire from the get-go and had to learn Stevens’ system on the fly, it’s actually way more than the Celtics could have asked for.
So, why would Ainge and Co. ultimately choose to keep the former Dayton Flyer on board for the long haul? Well, there are two reasons: one, he is a pretty good three point shooter – a skill that Boston could use after finishing 27th overall in three-point percentage last season, according to NBA.com – and, two, his motor is matched by very few across the entire league, which aids in his ability to do all the little things every team needs on both ends of the floor.
Although he only managed to connect on 34% of his attempts from beyond the arc this past season, Johnson was actually very impressive shooting the increasingly popular corner three. According to NBA.com, Johnson converted on 46% (22-48) of his looks from that specific area on the floor; a rate that was good enough to rank him fourth out of the 19 players that wore a Celtics uniform last year. If he can continue to take advantage of those looks while improving his effectiveness from the other locations around the three-point arc, he could become a very valuable piece coming off the bench as a three-point specialist and energy guy.
Speaking of energy, you’d be hard pressed to find another guy on this roster that gave the amount of effort that Johnson did on a nightly basis. He was consistently wreaking havoc on the defensive end of the court and would almost always be the first guy down the floor whenever the Celtics ran the break.
"When I was given the opportunity, I’d try to take full advantage of it," he said during an interview that can be seen in the attached video. "Just give my best effort and play hard. [I want to] try to show Danny Ainge and the coaching staff that I belong here."
Johnson was able to show Ainge that he deserved a spot on this team last year but it remains to be seen if his play will have a roll over effect into the 2014-15 season. He knows what it takes and, judging by what we’ve seen thus far, he doesn’t seem like he’s the type to get too complacent. Like Stevens said, "Chris was very hungry. The challenge is to stay hungry."
We’ll see if he’s ready to accept that challenge when the Cs begin camp in October.