Johnson Takes Another Shot at NBA Draft

For the moment at least, all Robert Johnson can do is wait.

Johnson headed back home to Richmond, Va. Wednesday after working out for the Pacers at St. Vincent Center, his third audition of the pre-draft process after competing for Oklahoma City and Milwaukee. He's hopeful of invitations to more, but nothing has been finalized.

So he'll wait. What's another week when you've been waiting four years for a dream to come true?

Johnson went through this process a year ago following his junior season at Indiana University, but returned for his senior season. He had little choice given the meager amount draft interest he inspired, and it was the right one, anyway. He averaged 14 points his final season with the Hoosiers, 14.6 points in conference play to earn honorable mention all-Big Ten recognition.

He feels like a much different player than a year ago this time, and believes he's acquitted himself well.

"At this point I'm playing a lot more free," he said. "I'm just taking everything I learned and I'm giving myself a chance by the way I'm performing."

It's still not a great chance based on the mock drafts, none of which predict Johnson to go in the first or second round. Size works against him, too. He was listed at 6-foot-4 on the information sheet handed to the media, and he acknowledged he was only "about" that height. He was listed at 6-3 at IU, and that might be a bit of a stretch, too.

That creates a challenge for someone trying to impress NBA scouts as a shooting guard. Johnson will have to do it primarily with 3-point shooting. He hit 39 percent of those attempts over his four seasons at IU, and had his share of outbursts. He hit a school-record nine of them at Iowa last season in a 29-point game, and had five against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.

Consistency was an issue. He hit 2-of-16 3-pointers over a four-game stretch in December, and 5-of-24 in late December and early January. Still, it all averaged out to a solid rate of accuracy, but it will take every bit of that for his outside shot at playing in the NBA to reach fruition.

He's trying to impress NBA teams with more than that, however.

"That I'm talented enough, that I can make shots, that I'm strong enough and athletic enough to defend multiple positions," he said.

That can be difficult to show in a typical pre-draft workout, but it's Johnson's best hope. He wasn't invited to play in the Portsmouth Invitational or the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, so the workouts become more important for him than most to leave a positive impression.

Johnson, a former four-star recruit for IU, was one of six participants on Wednesday, joining Creighton's Marcus Foster, who was invited back a second time; Missouri's Jordan Barnett; Louisville's Quentin Snider; Ohio State's Jae'sean Tate; and George Washington's Yuta Watanabe.

The session wasn't open to the media other than post-practice shooting, so it's impossible to offer an evaluation.

"We just competed," Johnson said. "A lot of three-on-three things, to see how you play in concepts, how well you pick up things."

The most realistic scenario for Johnson is to hope to get on an NBA Summer League team to gain exposure, and then find a spot on a team in the G League or overseas. This isn't the time for being realistic, though, as he ponders his future with his agent and family members.

"We just talk about taking it one step at a time and giving it everything I have and assessing where I am after that," he said.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.