Louisville star guard David Johnson returned for his sophomore season with the intent of improving his draft stock. Formerly regarded as a second-round pick, the Louisville native is once again being pinned in the early to middle part of the second round of many NBA mock drafts. Despite his stock not rising a ton in terms of draft placement, Johnson improved in a couple of critical areas, including perimeter shooting. Of course, the 6-foot-5 standout could sneak into the back half of the first round, but for this exercise, only a certain range of picks will be used. Let’s take a look at the three top landing spots for Johnson.
The Nets are in a unique situation; they don’t NEED anything per se, not when the roster contains three superstars. However, Brooklyn will use the draft to fill out their rotation with cheap, but talented prospects. The organization currently possesses the 44th, 49th, and 59th picks; if the selections aren’t dealt away in a package for a veteran, Johnson is a great fit in the Big Apple.
James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant will share the majority of the ball-handling duties, but it doesn’t hurt to bring in a young lead guard with an NBA-ready frame. Johnson’s improvement in playing without the ball and three-point shooting bodes well for the role he would likely be asked to fill. Throw in his notable feel for the game and intangibles, and the former Cardinal is exactly what the doctor ordered for Brooklyn. Outside of the star-studded big three, the Nets currently have minimal funds to address the backcourt depth issues, and Johnson’s value based upon his likely price range is a good find.
Barring something crazy, Detroit is set to draft Cade Cunningham with the first-overall pick, but Johnson would be a good fit in the Motor City regardless. The Pistons have picks 37, 42, and 52; simply put, the organization should be in best-player available mode in the draft. In 2020-21, Johnson averaged 12.6 PPG (41/39/70 splits), 5.8 RPG, and 3.2 APG. The shooting splits are a bit concerning, but he was tasked with a do-it-all responsibility that led to the percentages being down.
Johnson’s ability to affect the game in more ways than just scoring is a big reason why he’ll be valuable right away. In an era of position-less basketball, Detroit can never have too many passers and ball-handlers. Not to mention, outside of Cunningham and Killian Hayes, the minutes are up for grabs.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder’s situation is a hard one to assess for the future. Outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, it is unclear which direction they are pushing towards. Oklahoma City possesses the 34th, 36th, and 55th picks in the second round and should take an honest look at Johnson. For starters, OKC has six overall picks in the draft and can afford to take a chance on the Louisville product’s development. It can be argued that Johnson would be just as good on a team with no expectations as he would on a title contender.
Outside of SGA, the Thunder don’t have many reliable ball-handlers that can be utilized in the second unit. Johnson may not have star potential, but does possess a high floor and skillset similar to that of the former.