Get used to the name Dakari Johnson; the 21-year old was selected as the youngest player in the D-League All Star Game.
It’s time to start paying attention (i.e. actively watching games) to the OKC Blue folks. More specifically Dakari Johnson.
Johnson is the the Thunder’s 2015 second round draft pick, a 7-foot long-limbed genetic anomaly. At Kentucky he was almost exclusively used as a defensive anchor and the receiver of many alley-oops. But dunking is about all Johnson could do in his college days.
In two years in the Thunder organization, Johnson has completely changed his game. He’s the Blue’s best offensive player, averaging over 18 points a game on 54.5% field goal shooting. Johnson’s scoring on his own both from isolation post touches and offensive putbacks. Watch how the 21-year old bullies his opponents in the post like a young Hassan Whiteside.
Johnson is just bigger than everyone else on the court. But he’s always been like that. The main difference between his game at Kentucky and his game with the Blue is that he has learned to use his big body as an advantage. Guys Johnson’s size shouldn’t be able to move as quickly as he does, but Dakari has put an emphasis on his footwork.
And now Dakari has been rewarded for his hard work. On Monday the NBA D-League announced the rosters for the D-League All Star Game and Johnson appeared on that list. The next youngest player is Chris McCullough, the Nets 2015 first round pick.
This may not seem like it, but this is huge news for Oklahoma City. In less than two years, Johnson has evolved from a 5 point a game scorer in college to a 18 point a game scorer in professional basketball. If he can grow at that rate, imagine how good he will be in three years?
If the Thunder do in fact trade Enes Kanter, the 21-year old may be the next man in line. With Johnson they have a young prospect with an all-star ceiling. But more importantly they have the ability to sign him to one of the best contracts in the league. Let’s look at Semaj Christon’s contract for a parallel.
Christon was a 2014 second round pick who was in the Oklahoma City organization for almost two years. He signed a three-year deal this offseason for a whopping 3 years, 2.5 million. Johnson may get 500K more for his superior potential, but no NBA experience limits what a player can bargain for. Johnson may not match the production of Kanter, but at $17 million less a year you don’t have to.
One last thing on Johnson’s potential. We’ve noted how he’s averaging 18.4 points a game this season. But in his last seven games, he’s scored 20+ points six times. Now imagine how much Johnson would soak in practicing with the likes of Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook every day.
Luckily for us there’s a 99% chance we’ll be seeing that next season.