Alize Johnson 2019 Season Review

Pacers forward Alize Johnson talked about his first NBA season and discussed how playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants helped his development throughout his rookie year.

Alize Johnson 2019 Season Review

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Alize Johnson 2019 Season Review

Pacers forward Alize Johnson talked about his first NBA season and discussed how playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants helped his development throughout his rookie year.
May 7, 2019  |  03:28

Alize Johnson 2018-19 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from rookie Alize Johnson's rookie season.
May 7, 2019  |  00:59

Alize Gets His First Bucket

Rookie Alize Johnson scored his first NBA points in the closing minutes against Milwaukee.
Oct 19, 2018  |  00:00

Player Review 2019: Alize Johnson

by Mark Montieth Writer

Age: 23
Years Pro: 1
Status: Has one year remaining on his contract.
Key Stats: Played in 14 games for a total of 64 minutes. Played most of his season with the G League Mad Ants in Fort Wayne, averaging 19.1 points and 13.5 rebounds in 31 games.

Alize Johnson's potential remains intriguing, but you would have had to catch one of his G League games to see it. He was barely a rumor with the Pacers.

He played in 14 games for a total of 64 minutes. Scored 13 points, grabbed 19 rebounds. Had zero turnovers, which is certainly to his credit. But all in all there are no meaningful takeaways from a season as limited as that.

Ah, but in Fort Wayne, he was practically captivating. Played in 31 games when he wasn't busy filling a role as an emergency end-of-bench player with the Pacers. Averaged 36.7 minutes and 19.1 points on 51 percent shooting. Flexed the strength of his game by averaging 13.7 rebounds, fourth-best in the G League, and was the second-best offensive rebounder. He also averaged 3.4 assists, significant for a 6-foot-9 forward and hit 38 percent of his 3-pointers.

PHOTO GALLERY: Alize Johnson's 2018-19 Season in Photos »

There seems to be a well-rounded game somewhere amid all those numbers. Now the challenge becomes translating them to the NBA. While he didn't have time to convince Pacers fans of that last season, he left a favorable impression on his Pacer teammates with his effort and production in practice.

Talk to anyone knowledgeable about Johnson's game and the first thing that comes up is his motor, which Kevin Pritchard once described as the best he's seen in 10 years. Well, that and his uncanny resemblance to Philadelphia's star forward, Jimmy Butler. But the motor is what matters most and what might propel him into the NBA.

"He has a strong niche," Thaddeus Young said during the season. "One of the biggest things about him is he brings that toughness to the game. He's going to try to get every single rebound. If he can bring that same attitude every single night, he can make a great living in this league."

Alize Johnson

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Young compares Johnson to Reggie Evans, another 6-8 forward who played 13 seasons in the NBA almost solely because of his rebounding talents. Young and Evans were teammates in Philadelphia through Young's first two NBA seasons, so he's familiar with both.

"Rebound the basketball, keep guys in front of him and get a few buckets here and there, he'll definitely be a guy who can stay in this league a long time," Young said of Johnson.

The ability to "get a few buckets here and there" will be crucial to Johnson's ability to reduce his driving mileage in future seasons. A point guard as a freshman in high school before his growth spurt, he developed ballhandling skills that enable him to get to the basket. His perimeter shooting skills are still in development stage. Johnson adjusted his shooting form after leaving Missouri State, dropping his release point a bit, and it's paid off some. He hit 38 percent of his 95 3-point attempts with the Mad Ants. That's better than a lot of forwards around the NBA can shoot it, including, oh, say, Jimmy Butler.

Now it's mostly a matter of seeing if and where he can fit in the NBA.

"It seems like A.J. has added something new to his game every time we see him," Darren Collison said during one of Johnson's layovers with the Pacers. "He's shooting the ball at a really high clip right now. He seems to be more confident. He has a good head on his shoulders. He's a workhorse. He plays hard in practice and when he gets his chance in the game he doesn't let up."

Not all G League standouts have a lasting career in the NBA, just as not all Triple-A baseball stars make in the Majors. Johnson, however, appears to have the maturity and demeanor to bridge the wide gulf. He never was heard to complain about all his jaunts up and down I-69, finding a purpose in both destinations. He played a lot in Fort Wayne with Mad Ants and learned a lot in Indianapolis by playing against Pacers in practice.

The second-round pick in the 2018 draft (50th overall), doesn't have to become another Jimmy Butler to have a meaningful NBA career, or to qualify as a savvy draft pick. Just deleting the need to stay off I-69 will be enough.

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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.


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