Monday, April 12, 2010

Breathe: What Boiler Nation Needs to Do As Johnson Declares

News of JaJuan Johnson declaring for the NBA Draft has reached the blogosphere, and the reaction is predictably hysterical.

Just when it seems that Purdue may have a realistic shot at a championship (at least Andy Katz seems to think so), along comes a story to make Boilermaker Nation cry in their, um, Boilermakers yet again.

Not to mention Gary Parrish coming along to twist the knife even further, but that's another story.

Before everyone indulges their "woe is us" impulse, however, let's examine JJ with a critical eye.

Why would the NBA take him?

He's 6'10" with an 18-foot jump shot. Long body, good shot-blocker, can make the finesse plays inside.  Sounds great, right?  So...

Why wouldn't the NBA take him?

On that 6'10" frame, there's only 215 pounds of flesh and bone. He's a fairly maligned rebounder, even in college. While he had 10 double-figure rebounding games this season, he had seven more with four boards or less, including a three-carom night against Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament, so there's a tendency to disappear.

Part of that can be due to his own forays to the perimeter, as other players below Johnson on the list linked above have been known to stroke the three.

However, also partially due to JJ operating on the perimeter, his field goal percentage stood at a mediocre-for-a-center 50.4 percent this season.

The other part of that rebounding malaise stems from that 215-pound frame. If his jumpshot and ballhandling were more consistent, we could possibly project him as a small forward. They're not, though, so right now, he's an undersized power forward who would get hammered mercilessly in the Association.

Is he on the NBA's radar?

Considering several teams like to dazzle the establishment by scraping up some Euroleague guys who will never see an NBA contract, of course they know about a two-time All-Big Ten center. But what do they think of him? That's the million-dollar question.

No team will tell you, so we must consult the websites that rank players for such purposes. They have a mock showing JJ as a high second-round 2011.  His profile? Bare. Hmmm. Same mock status as above.  At least he has a profile, even if it hasn't been updated in about 400 days or so. On their inaugural Top 100 list for this year's draft, we need to scroll all the way down to No. 78 before we get to Johnson's name.

Does any of this sound like the treatment of a highly touted 2010 prospect?

Not really. So, it begs the question:

WTF is JaJuan thinking?

He's likely thinking that he'll get a little feedback from actual, official NBA scouts rather than the armchair websites and bloggers. That way, he makes the most informed decision he possibly can.

If I was on Pardon the Interruption, playing a game of Odds Makers right now, and I was asked to give my odds on JJ staying in the draft, I'd come back with an answer in the neighborhood of five percent. If he's not a first-round pick, there's no guaranteed cash, so it's a gamble.

As more touted freshman and sophomore prospects declare, it pushes Johnson further down the big priority list for the scouts. He has until May 8 to decide officially, but I won't be surprised if he turns around and comes back sooner, once he gets the information he needs.

Only when JJ shows up to an early May press conference looking like Karl Malone will I become truly concerned. Something tells me that might be as likely as 50 Cent's next album being grounded in acoustic folk.


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