Given the lightning fast shelf life of many an NBA career, he easily could have been here, gone and forgotten in an unspectacular flash.
Here and then gone like Roddy Beaubois.
James Johnson was taken 16th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft (14 picks after Hasheem Thabeet, 10 after Jonny Flynn, nine ahead of Beaubois), and he briefly surfaced as a relevant fantasy option late in his rookie year, during a five-game flurry in March 2010: 12.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.8 bpg and 1.0 3s.
But despite the considerable potential that has pretty much been there since he came into the league, Johnson’s career went seven years without anything resembling a signature season. In fact, entering this year, he hadn’t ever averaged double-digit points. The closest he’d come to a full year of relevance was 2011-12 with Toronto, when he posted 9.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.4 bpg (and 0.3 3s) in 62 games.
Then this season, playing for his fifth team in seven-plus seasons (and playing in a contract year), Johnson has finally done it. But it didn’t happen immediately. His first four games, he was averaging 3.8 ppg on 23.8 percent shooting. He picked it up with a number of big games in November, but even so, after the first month, he was still posting numbers that looked pretty familiar (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.0 3s in 13 games). And after his first 25 games, he was certainly relevant, but still something short of dynamic: 10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.9 bpg and 1.0 3s. It’s possible that when he missed four games with a shoulder injury in early December, he was sitting out there on waivers in your league.
It was not long after that, in late 2016, that the 29-year-old really took off. His last 27 games, Johnson has posted 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.3 bpg and 1.3 3s (48.3 / 69.0) in 27 games. And over his last 10, he has vaulted his production to another level: 16.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.8 bpg and 0.9 3s on 55.3 percent from the field. During that run, he’s been the No. 36 player in 9-category leagues.
In years past, it would have been fair to ask when (not if) the fun might stop. Now, it’s hard to picture any scenario where this expires. Until of course, Johnson presumably signs a big free agent deal in the offseason, and we’ll be left to wonder if this season was simply a beautiful fluke. But for now, there’s nothing but open road if you added Johnson, so enjoy the boost that could help lead you to a fantasy title — and try not to be so transparently smug about it.
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Other Random Thoughts: Blake Griffin’s last eight games have been downright beastly: 25.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.9 bpg and 0.8 3s (52.1 / 82.1). … Meanwhile, Kyle Korver’s last eight games look like this: 15.4 ppg, 3.8 3s, 62.9 percent from the field. … I will now break up this paragraph to break down Andrew Wiggins’ bizarre season into three stretches:
First 11 games: 27.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.1 3s, 49.1 FG (No. 79 in 9-category leagues)
Next 31 games: 19.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 3s, 42.7 FG (No. 227 in 9-category leagues)
Last 15 games: 27.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.5 3s, 50.5 FG (No. 23 in 9-category leagues)
Nothing too shocking here — just your standard leap of 200 spots in the rankings.
More Random Thoughts: Marcus Smart has 19 steals in his last five games (3.8 spg), and is somehow shooting 51.0 percent from the field during that stretch. The rest of his numbers during the five-game run: 14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.2 apg and 1.2 3s. … Robert Covington’s last 13 games: 15.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.6 spg, 1.2 bpg and 2.7 3s. … Klay Thompson has averaged 5.6 treys in his last seven games. … I had a weird dream Wednesday night that Brook Lopez uncorked six 3s and eight blocks in the same game.
In closing: You can read my comments on Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon at this week’s Rotoworld Roundtable, and by checking out the videos just below…