There were only a few moves made by the Wolves in-season to stem the tide of injuries that promoted role players to starters, rookies to rotation players and guys signed fresh off the Euro- or D-League to rock stars.
Or would-be rock stars. Chris Johnson, or Christ Johnson if you were a believer, brought the house down whenever he got the chance. On a properly healthy lineup, he’d be an spot option for short-term use and not a guy people desperately clamored to start or back up Pek. He could have that role next year.
We continue with our cannibalizing of A Wolf Among Wolves season recap profiles series…
When he saw the floor, he thrilled fans with his alley-oop finishing and emphatic blocks. He also showcased a jumper that was somewhat inconsistent but featured the kind of high release that makes LaMarcus Aldridge such a tough cover.
All of which makes you wonder: Why didn’t he see more playing time for a Wolves team that was
not only short on players, but often short on the kind of feelgood energy that Johnson brought?
Well, for one, Adelman always seemed reluctant to put Johnson on the floor for extended minutes against the league’s stronger power forwards and centers. Johnson is listed at 6’11” and 210 pounds, which seems generous, given that Pekovic is listed at the same height and 290 and looks to be about three times the width of Johnson. We saw Johnson doing well when he was initially signed out of the D-League and then on occasion when he was brought in for very specific assignments and minutes. It was hard not to think of what he could do with more. But ultimately, I think Adelman was right to not lean too heavily on Johnson this season. More playing time likely would have exposed his weaknesses. Sometimes folk heroes are folk heroes because we know so little about them, the facts of their stories stripped away and replaced with legends.
So what happens for Johnson next season? I, for one, would like to see him stick around. With a full offseason of work, he could likely gain strength—if not mass—and also put in the work necessary to make that midrange jumper a threat. In a league that’s increasingly going small, he could play a role as a long but quick power forward capable of finishing on the break and providing weakside defensive help on a team that lacks rim protection in its starting lineup. I doubt retaining him would have much of an impact on the bottom line when it comes to re-signing players like Pekovic and Budinger, and the above-listed qualities make him a completely competent fourth or fifth guy in the frontcourt rotation.