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James Johnson Proving He’s Miami Heat’s Best All-Around Player
- Updated: November 10, 2017
Although the Miami Heat have had a mediocre 5-6 start to the season, one thing has become quite evident: forward James Johnson has quietly emerged as the team’s best all-around player. Johnson re-signed with the Heat this offseason after enjoying a career year with the team in 2016-17.
Through 11 games so far on the season, Johnson is averaging career-highs in points (13.7), rebounds (6.4) and assists (4.8) per game, while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 77.4 percent from the free-throw line. He has also been solid on defense, averaging a career-best 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
After coming off the bench in 71 of 76 games last season, Johnson’s role on the team this season has gone back and forth from starter to key bench player. However, it doesn’t matter whether he starts or not, his impact is always felt. As a starter he averages 12.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Those numbers change to 15.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game when he comes off the bench.
His ability to grab rebounds and lead the fast break — finishing it off himself or finding an open teammate — gives the Heat another dynamic offensive weapon.
The 30-year-old Wake Forest University product has a do-it-all mentality, something that was shown in the Heat’s recent loss to the Golden State Warriors. Johnson had arguably his best game of the season, recording 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.
Another aspect of his game that is invaluable to the team is his leadership. The day of the Heat’s home opener against the Indiana Pacers, Johnson was named co-captain of the team, along with Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem. He spoke to the Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro about the honor.
“I have great respect for them. Being the captain on this team don’t mean that I’m always saying what to do and everything I say is right,” said Johnson. “I also follow their lead, too. And I think that plays a big part in it.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, also speaking to Navarro about the decision, had lots of praise for the forward.
“Then, JJ, was one of the most special things that I’ve been a part of in my coaching career. It was maybe surprising to people on the outside, maybe because you wouldn’t predict this would happen a year ago when we signed him,” said Spoelstra. “But when we actually named him captain it was the no brainer of no brainers. You talk to any single player or staff member in that locker room, it was unanimous that he had to be a captain. He has that type of voice, purity, intention and just natural leadership qualities to take on that role. So it was really cool to see him grow into that.”
The long-term investment in Johnson had drawn criticism from many, but he continues to show improvement in his game and having completely embraced the Heat culture, he is exactly the type of leader and player this team needs.