NBA Draft: Rockets Nab Potential Harden Backup Nick Johnson

By Brett David Roberts

Mar 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Nick Johnson (13) shoots the final shot against Wisconsin Badgers guard Traevon Jackson (12) during overtime in the finals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Honda Center. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats 64-63. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

While second round impacts don’t always make an impact, there’s a lot of reason to believe it may be different with 42nd overall pick Nick Johnson of Arizona. Johnson is a good athlete and has great shooting range, and his game should fit in nicely in the run and gun attack of Kevin McHale. He’s a bit undersized for a 2-guard at 6’3”, but he doesn’t offer enough playmaking to adequately play the point guard spot…on most teams.

On Houston, he could play point easily since James Harden is a playmaking, ball-dominant 2-guard. Johnson, thus, fills both a need as a backup and he can still moonlight at the 1-spot while Patrick Beverley rests.

There’s no indication at this point that Jeremy Lin will necessarily be a Rocket by the time the season begins. Daryl Morey is still trying to clear cap room to make a run at either Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, which places the Rockets backcourt in a temporary (but necessary) state of limbo. Acquiring either Anthony or James would drastically alter the landscape of the Rockets’ starting five.

While Johnson does offer a lot of promise, there’s a good reason he fell so far into the second round even after a good career at Arizona, and that’s already been mentioned: his size. He also doesn’t have any real standout skills on the offensive end, though he is a pretty solid shooter.

Johnson’s biggest problems in the NBA will be manning up with both point guards and shooting guards, and while his athleticism and shooting indicates he may be able to thrive in the NBA, the Rockets won’t be committed to signing him since he is a second round pick. Johnson is also the nephew of all-time Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson. While the NBA bloodline may or may not mean anything at all, it’s an added caveat to have great basketball pedigree.