Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Rewind: Profiling current role players

Kelan Martin, Malik Beasley, James Johnson and Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Kelan Martin, Malik Beasley, James Johnson and Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, James Johnson
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 23: James Johnson #16 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

James Johnson

Drafted: 2009, No. 16 Overall

NBA Comparison: Danny Granger, Ryan Gomes

NBA Outlook Analysis

Coming out of Wake Forest, James Johnson had a great balance between his physical profile, combining, strength, size, and athleticism. Splitting time between the power forward and small forward positions he knew how to score from all levels within the offense.

Johnson’s biggest obstacle heading into the draft was consistency. There were plenty of stretches of hot play followed by cold streaks, putting him in the range of one of the best players in college basketball to potentially a second-rounder at best. Ultimately, he was taken at No. 16.

Johnson & Granger/Gomes Comparison

Heading into the 2006 NBA Draft, Danny Granger and Ryan Gomes were seen as athletic forwards who could spend time at both forward positions, just like Johnson three years later. All three players had shown they had the ability to stretch the floor.

Johnson is now in his 11th season in the league, with the Timberwolves being his sixth stop. Granger retired after 10 seasons and Gomes after eight.

Looking at the numbers, Danny Granger was easily the best scorer of the three, averaging 16.8 points while shooting 38 percent from behind the arc, including 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and a steal per game.

Gomes averaged double-digit points in his career at 10.1 per game. He added 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.7 steals per contest.

By comparison, Johnson has averaged 8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game to this point in his career.

Evaluation of Player Comparison

While JJ hasn’t averaged double figures in points he has excelled in other areas, including surpassing both Granger and Gomes in games played in his career.

He has a higher defensive rating and defensive plus-minus and has turned himself into somewhat of an enforcer, earning the nickname “Bloodsport.”

Ryan Gomes spent three seasons in a Timberwolves jersey and was included in the trade that sent Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics. Gomes was a good glue guy and bench piece, but the biggest accomplishment in his career was being included on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team that season after being a late second-round pick by the Celtics.

Before injuries derailed his career, Granger turned himself into an elite player, winning the Most Improved Player award, along with making his lone all-star appearance in the 2008-09 season. Starting in the 2007-08 season Granger was the leading scorer for the Indiana Pacers in five consecutive seasons. He also became the first player in NBA history to bring his scoring average up more than five points per game in three consecutive seasons.

Gomes was a good rotational piece but was never more than a starter on a bad team as he did not play in the playoffs at any point in his career.

Johnson has had ups and downs in his career but has turned himself into a solid player and mentor for younger players. His biggest problem throughout his career has been staying on the court.

If it were not for injuries Granger had the chance to be a perennial all-star as he was just entering his age-28 season when his injury problems started to begin.

With all things considered Granger had the best career of the three to date. JJ has passed Gomes’ career as a whole and if Johnson can stay on the court while continuing to play at a high level for a few more seasons he has a real opportunity to surpass Granger’s career even though he has never been an all-star level player.