What Can Sacramento Kings Fans Expect from James Johnson?



What can Sacramento Kings fans expect from James Johnson and how does he compare with former Sacramento Kings player, Terence Williams, a guard-forward, whom the Sacramento Kings signed last season and John Salmons, a veteran forward-guard, whom the Sacramento Kings acquired after trading off their point guard Beno Udrih?

Let’s take a look at the 2011-2012 stats for all three players:

James Johnson
2011-2012 Stats

PPG = 9.1
RPG = 4.70
APG = 2.0
GP = 62
MPG = 25.2
Eff + 11.53

Terence Williams
2011-2012 Stats

PPG = 7.1
RPG = 3.4
APG = 2.2
GP = 30
MPG = 18.3
Eff = 7.73

John Salmons
2011-2012 Stats

PPG = 7.5
RPG = 2.9
APG = 2.0
GP = 46
MPG = 27.2
Eff = 7.61

Stats come from NBA.com Advanced Stats and basketball-reference.com.

First off, I’m going to begin this analysis with “fresh eyes” in regard to James Johnson. That is to say, I personally don’t know much about James Johnson. I haven’t followed his career, nor has he been on my radar. Curiosity, that thing that killed the cat is my driving force that compels me to take a look at him.

I do have some preconceived ideas about Terence Williams and John Salmons. T-Will was picked by Sacramento Kings last season with those proverbial red-flags that Sacramento Kings fans have come to know so well. He had dropped out of favor not by one team, but two.

As to James Johnson, he is a 6’9’ 248 pound forward out of Wake Forest University. He was born, February 20, 1987, making him 25 years old, with three years of NBA experience. He was drafted in the first round, 16th pick by the Chicago Bulls, in the 2009 NBA Draft. He was assigned to the D-League January 2011, where he was able to rack-up 19.3 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game, and 4.3 assists per game. He was recalled two weeks later, and then traded to the Toronto Raptors in February 2011 for a first round pick. He subsequently was traded the Sacramento Kings in exchange for the 2014 second round pick.

Terence Williams makes an automatic comparison to Johnson. Both he and James Johnson are 25 years of age. Williams’ birthday was June 28, 1987.Both were 2009 NBA draft picks. Terrence was also a first round pick, selected 11th by the New York Nets. In November 2010, Williams was sent to the D-League, where he played three games, garnering 28 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game, and 10.7 assists per game. About three weeks later he was traded to the Houston Rockets. In March 2012, he was waived by the Rockets. Shortly thereafter, he signed a 10-day contract, with the Sacramento Kings, which led to a contract for a remainder of the 2011-2012 NBA Season.

Williams did a nice job is his short stint with the Kings, with many fans assuming the Sacramento Kings would offer him a contract at the end of the season. He displayed excellent court vision, good ball handling skills, and to outsiders, seemed to be a nice fit within the young team roster. So, it remains unclear why he was not picked up by the team. Some speculate he may have asked for more money than the Kings were willing to offer. But, it is merely that, pure speculation.

John Salmons had the worst season of his career last season, but has proven himself in past seasons to be an excellent player. He is a veteran with ten years pro experience. So, it isn’t clear whether last season was a precursor of a long-term career decline for Salmons, or whether he will bounce back to his former performance levels this season. Salmons was born December 12, 1979, he is currently 32 years old, with his birth date right around the corner. Salmons played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, where he was the primary starter. His 3-point percentage took a precipitous drop from the .385 and .379 he enjoyed in Milwaukee to a .295 in Sacramento. His points took a major hit from the 14.4 and 19.0 per 36 minutes in Milwaukee to 9.9 in Sacramento. There no denying; John Salmons was in a major funk last season.

Getting back to James Johnson and what fans can hope to see from him. Looking at the stats at the top of the page, it is worth noting with comparable minutes played, Johnson had a better season last season than John Salmons. Johnson played more games, and scored more points and got more rebounds. So, that is reassuring. If Salmons has another season like he did last season, we can feel fairly confident; Johnson should be able to hold his own.

It is hard to compare Johnson to Terence Williams on a per game basis, since Williams played fewer minutes than Johnson. On a 36 minute basis, Williams had 15.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 7.2 rebounds to Johnson’s 13.1 points, 2.8 assists, and 6.7 rebounds. Williams’ higher assist numbers do stand out, along with his flexibility to play as a guard. Johnson does show higher efficiency rating than either Williams or Salmons.

In summary, I think Johnson is an upgrade for the team in the forward position, which was the weak link in the chain for the team last season, creating havoc for Head Coach Smart in attempting to fortify it. Hence: The Tyreke Evans is not a point guard (NaPG) experiment followed by the Tyreke not being happy in small forward position experiment.

James Johnson is a young guy, who should fit well into the young roster enhancing the overall team chemistry. Johnson should provide some safety net for the forward position which was a problem for the team last season. I am disappointed the Sacramento Kings did not pick up Terrence Williams, as well. But, none of us knows all the factors, which go into offering a long-term contract to a player. Geoff Petrie did not rule-out the possibility the team could pick up Williams in a trade at some later date. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing what Johnson will bring to the team this season.