Recapping New Orleans Pelicans forward James Johnson's 2020-21 NBA Season.
- Age 34
- Experience Twelve seasons (one with Pelicans)
- Games Played/Games Started 22/11
When New Orleans executed a March 25 trade sending JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli to Dallas in exchange for Johnson and Wes Iwundu, the vast majority of NBA analysts focused on Redick’s potential contributions, as the biggest name in the four-player deal. As it turned out, Johnson ended up having a greater impact than anyone, playing more minutes for the Pelicans (539) than Redick and Melli did combined for the Mavericks (491, including Melli’s 19 playoff minutes).
Key injuries helped place Johnson in the unusual position of making his New Orleans debut as a starter on April 1 vs. Orlando, going from not playing in three straight games to logging 29 minutes against the Magic. Of course, no member of the Pelicans’ roster was more equipped to handle those unique circumstances – it was the third time in Johnson’s lengthy NBA career that he was part of an in-season trade, as well as for the second consecutive year.
- PTS Per Game 9.2
- REB Per Game 4.1
- AST Per Game 2.2
James Johnson Key Stats from 2020-21 NBA Season
“I came in late from a whole different team, different terminology, defensive presence,” Johnson said of moving from Texas to Louisiana on the fly. “Coming here, they welcomed me with open arms, allowed me to play my game a little bit. I realized my number was going to be (called) with guys out. When (injured players) came back, I was in my role, where I was supposed to be, to help them succeed.”
Johnson himself couldn’t escape the team’s second-half injury bug, sidelined four games in April due to a right adductor strain, but before and after that, he helped New Orleans remain competitive, despite an undermanned roster.
“I had a great time, learned a lot,” Johnson said. “Stan (Van Gundy) is a Hall of Fame coach. Just to experience playing with Zion (Williamson), Brandon Ingram, Lonzo (Ball), it was something I’ll be able to talk to my kids about.”
Johnson, who will become an unrestricted free agent in August, expressed optimism about New Orleans’ future, based on a stable of talented youngsters. The Pelicans have multiple players who were in grade school when Johnson made his NBA debut in October 2009.
“Keep building good habits,” Johnson said of what the team’s offseason objective should be. “Get one percent better every day throughout this offseason and the sky’s the limit for this team. Our resiliency was (excellent), the way they could fight back down 20 (points), down 15, and always be in it, shows what kind of resilience and character we have on this team.”
James Johnson | By The Numbers
Games of four-plus rebounds and four-plus assists this season for Johnson, who did so three times with New Orleans and twice with Dallas. He averaged 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes with the Pelicans.
Times he played at least half of a game (24-plus minutes) this season, including 13 instances with New Orleans. The Pelicans went 3-1 in the four games in which Johnson logged at least 30 minutes of action for them.
Johnson rank among New Orleans players in total minutes played after he made his Pelicans debut on April Fool’s Day. His 539 minutes trailed Eric Bledsoe (780), Naji Marshall (677), Williamson (582) and Ball (542).
Photos: James Johnson Season in Review | 2020-2021 Pelicans
James Johnson | Most Notable Games from 2020-21 NBA Season
#1, April 4, New Orleans 122, Houston 115
Not only did this win in Toyota Center mark a season high in scoring (18 points), but the jack of all trades showed up everywhere on the stat sheet (seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, four blocks).
#2, May 9, New Orleans 112, Charlotte 110
Johnson sparked this Mother’s Day victory in North Carolina at both ends of the floor. He started and logged 31 minutes, posting 17 points, eight rebounds (three offensive boards) and three steals.
#3, May 10, Memphis 115, New Orleans 110
Although it came in a narrow defeat at FedEx Forum, a 13-point, seven-rebound, five-assist performance was one of Johnson’s better all-around games in the less than two months he spent in the Crescent City.