Tyler Johnson Embraces Sixthman Role with Team-First Approach

Tyler Johnson
by Cody Cunningham

In less than 36 hours Phoenix Suns fans will gather at Talking Stick Resort Arena as the referee throws the opening tip in the air to officially launch the team’s 52nd campaign and the 2019-20 season. 

And as that ball is tipped, Tyler Johnson will begin his live-scouting of the Sacramento Kings from the sidelines.

Johnson spent the first four-and-a-half years of his career in Miami, providing a spark for the Heat as one of the grittiest sixthmen in the league. After transitioning into a starting role last year in Phoenix, Johnson returns to the bench and is embracing the opportunity to bring that same energy to the revamped Suns roster.

“That was what I played throughout my whole career,” Johnson. “Going back to last year, the conversations I was having with [Jamal Crawford], just how important that role really is to a team. You can really keep the momentum going or take it to another level. I’ve always loved that role.”

Early in his career, Johnson felt anxious as game-time approached, but having the time to watch the game unfold in front of him before checking in helped in calming his nerves.

“Before we would play, I would be so amped up and ready to go,” Johnson said. “Coming off the bench, it allowed me to see how the defense was playing, feel the rhythm of the game, see where I could put my finger prints on it.”

The time spent awaiting his number to be called allows him to feel the flow of the game, see what the opposing team is bringing and capture breakdowns that he could take advantage of.

“You can watch pick-and-roll coverage,” Johnson said. “You can see what player is getting into what kind of rhythm. If you get into the game, what can you do to cut off this? Maybe we’re running a play and you see a read that we didn’t get to in the original five. Maybe now that we ran it a few times with that group, I can hit them with this.”

Head Coach Monty Williams appreciates Johnson’s team-first approach and the sacrifices that he’s willing to make for the betterment of the organization.

“He understands team,” Williams said. “If you play in Miami, those guys understand their roles and he was really good in that role. That’s where he excels. I think he can start if you need him to, but I think his comfort level is coming off the bench. Sitting on the bench early and reading the game and then come off and have an effect.”

Johnson’s versatility on the court and his ability to impact many phases of the game make him the ideal threat off the bench.

“I like Tyler because he’s solid,” Williams said. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He does a lot of stuff well. He can shoot it. He can pass it. He can play off the dribble. He defends his position. He rebounds. Sometimes he might not get the rebound, but he’ll get in there and mix it up. He came from a really good program, so he understands the work and the grind.”

Johnson spent the majority of his career as a shooting guard, but following his experience as the Suns starting point guard last season, has developed the skillset to alternate to either position. 

“I’ve played the one in practice. I’ve played the two in practice,” Johnson said. “I feel comfortable playing both. I think that time last year as a starter at the point, specifically, really helped. I feel comfortable either way. I’m not going to put my ego in the way and try and say I should be playing this or I should be playing that. Wherever they put me is where I’m going to put my mark on the game.”

Johnson and the Suns will begin the 2019-20 season on Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Click HERE to get your tickets for the Coca-Cola & Fry’s Food Stores Tip-Off.

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