Offseason Breakdown: Wes Johnson
The Timberwolves have a group of young talent that, over the course of the summer, have an opportunity to take significant strides in their games and help the team take that next step into playoff contention. Rookies Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee and second-year player Wes Johnson are part of that group and are the top candidates to participate in Summer League in Las Vegas on July 13-22. In Part 3 of this three-part series, Timberwolves.com breaks down Johnson's sophomore year and looks ahead to his development over the summer.
Biggest strengths in 2011-12
Defensive stops: Johnson’s 6-foot-7, 205-pound frame and innate athletic ability make him a strong presence on the defensive end of the floor. He has th
e length and quickness to defend both the small forward and shooting guard positions. He had 35 steals on the season but made his biggest impact as the team’s top shot blocker. Johnson led the Wolves with 48 blocked shots on the year, many of which came while chasing down opponents attempting fast break lay-ups. When Johnson’s shots aren’t falling, his defense is the part of his game that needs to remain constant. “He’s got to be our defensive stopper,” player development coach Shawn Respert said. “And that guy that has to be our defensive stopper has to be a mean son of a gun. That’s what I see with him. He’s got to find a way to channel that frustration and send it out instead of keeping it in. When he does that, he becomes that type of weapon that we need within a team that is going to be successful.”
Durability: The Wolves had more than their fair share of injuries this season, but Johnson was not part of that group. He began the season as the team
’s starting shooting guard for the first seven games until Michael Beasley was sidelined by a sprained right foot. From that point forward Johnson became the team’s starting small forward, missing just one game this year due to illness. He and Derrick Williams are the only two players on the team to play in more than 60 games this year, and Johnson is the only pla
- yer who started more than 55 games on the team in 2011-12.
What to work on this summer
- Extra jump shots: Johnson had offensive struggles this season beginning with his jump shots. He shot 39.8 percent from the field on the season and 31.4 percent from 3-point range, and as the season wore on his shot attempts fluctuated. In April, he took 5.5 shots per game but did see a spike in his 3-point percentage to 44.1 percent. He had nine games this season in which he scored double figures, and the team went 4-5 in those contests. A summer filled with shooting will be an important part of Johnson’s offseason as he tries to gain consistency on the offensive end. “I think a lot of that is Summer League is a critical time for him,” Respert said. “That’s engagement. It’s live action. There are no do-overs at that time.”
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- Comfort ball handling: Part of Johnson’s development will be getting comfortable handling the basketball and driving to the basket with more regularity and efficiency. Johnson is one of the most athletic players on the Wolves’ roster, and when he connected with guards Ricky Rubio or Luke Ridnour on alley-oops he showed how violently he can attack the rim. But being able to take the ball at the perimeter and drive to the basket is something Johnson needs to address. He didn’t do it a lot this season, and as a result he didn’t draw a lot of fouls and get to the line. Johnson played in 65 games this year but had just 34 free-throw attempts, third fewest on the team behind Brad Miller (12) and Malcolm Lee (17).
- “He’s going to play Summer League this year. I think it’s a great opportunity. … There’s nothing that says he’s going to be hurt by playing in the Summer League. It’s not about an ego being bruised because he’s in his third year or heading into his third year. He missed last year’s Summer League. This is an opportunity where he would have been playing anyway. He’s embracing that now and he understands that.” — Player development coach Shawn Respert
- “He’s just got to keep taking the shots. They’re open, he’s got to take them. He’s capable of making them. It’s just about getting comfortable, and when it comes to him he’s just got to shoot it.” head coach Rick Adelman