Tyler Johnson Brings Versatility, Leadership and Playoff Experience to Phoenix

by Cody Cunningham

The Phoenix Suns acquired Tyler Johnson in a trade with the Miami Heat earlier this week and will look to make his Suns debut on Friday as the team tips-off against the Golden State Warriors.

“I’m really excited,” Johnson said. “It’s a new opportunity and a new challenge that I get to face and hopefully I can bring some things over that I’ve learned in my first five years over here.”

Johnson brings playoff experience to the Suns locker room as the Suns are looking to Johnson to help provide leadership while guiding the young Suns on and off the court.

“Just continue to be who I am, but also maybe just a little bit more from a leadership standpoint,” Johnson said. “Trying to accelerate some of the younger guys and maybe teach them some of the things that I’ve been able to pick up.”

He spoke with his former mentor in Dwyane Wade for advice on his transition from Miami to the Valley.

“I just talked to him about some of the things I should be doing when I come over here,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing he was talking about was just get that communication going and make sure everybody can get on the same page. Make sure everybody’s working on the details.”

Johnson is currently coming off of one of the hottest streaks of his career as he shot 50 percent (27 of 54) from three-point range throughout the month of December. This was the third highest mark in the NBA for that month.

While Johnson does have experience starting, his prime role in Miami was providing a spark in the second unit. He ranks second in Heat history with 19-career games scoring 20-plus points off the bench. When first taking on the sixthman responsibilities, it was actually Suns’ Jamal Crawford that helped inspire him to embrace the role.

“I actually told him when we played in Phoenix last time how much he inspired me,” Johnson said. “He was one of the first guys who make that cool. He was one of the first guys who was able to sacrifice for the team, but at the same time, he was able to do what he does…That’s definitely a guy I looked up to growing up.”

At 6’4”, 190 pounds, Johnson has many times been looked at as a point guard, while also having the skillset to play the shooting guard position. But whether he’s playing the one or the two, he simply just considers himself a basketball player.

“I don’t really give myself a position because everybody said I was too small to play the two, but I’ve played the two my whole career,” Johnson said. “But then also there’s been times when I was on the ball. So, I can play either one and I feel comfortable with it.”

From his first practice with the team, Johnson has already felt what the Suns young core is capable of.

“There’s definitely a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing is getting to learn these guys and what their tendencies are and what they like on the court. So, I’m looking forward to continuing learning from this group.”

Kelly Oubre Jr. has known Johnson since his rookie season and is looking forward to sharing the court with his newest teammate.

“He’s just a great character person,” Oubre said. “He plays really hard with passion for his family. He’s a part of the Suns family now. We’ve got to continue to build together and just continue to grow. He’s here to help us win because he’s coming from a winning culture. It’s going to be fun.”

Oubre has seen the versatility that Johnson has to his game and is excited to have him suit up next to him in a Suns uniform.

“Left handed, athletic, can shoot the ball, can defend,” Oubre said. “He’s the total package pretty much. I feel like he can help in any of those categories, if not all of them.”

While Head Coach Igor Kokoskov hasn’t announced if Johnson is starting or continuing his sixthman role, the 26-year-old guard is expected to make his Suns debut in front of the Phoenix fan base on Friday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.



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