is performing as well as ever. Photo Credit: Michael Dunlap, HoopsHabit.com
As Wesley Johnson walked off the practice court, you could see the confidence brimming within him. The Phoenix Suns have been planting the seeds for a turnaround ever since Lindsey Hunter took over as coach of the Suns back on Jan. 20, with a strong focus on the defensive game. Johnson has bought into the system and has developed into a multi-faceted defender.
Johnson’s advanced metrics show how effective he’s been defensively. According to 82games.com, he’s holding opposing shooting guards to a paltry 8.4 efficiency rating and opposing small forwards to a measly 5.3.
Granted, the sample size isn’t very large, as Johnson has been on the court for just eight percent of the total minutes of play.
Coming out of Syracuse, Johnson was expected to be a defensive stalwart in the NBA. His first two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t go as planned, in large part due to a very poor offensive showing. Take a look at his per-game stats:
In 2011-12 with the Timberwolves, he played mostly small forward and held the opposition to an efficiency rating of 15.0, which is in line with the league average. In 2010-11, his rookie season, he played much more shooting guard and held opposing players to a 14.3 rating.
Over his past three games, Johnson has put together a solid string of play that will enable him to see more time in Hunter’s rotation. His defensive rating of 88 is stellar and is a big reason why the Suns have been able to go on a modest three-game winning streak.
Coach Hunter praised Johnson’s work ethic, specifically pointing out how his attitude has stayed positive despite some ups-and-downs:
"His practices have been outstanding. He’s really come alive, both offensively and defensively. It’s great to see and a pleasant surprise. Even when he wasn’t playing, he was supportive of his teammates, with that big smile on his face. That’s part of why he’s successful now, because of that great attitude."
Offensively, Johnson is starting to find his place. Instead of going to the basket, he’s learning that spotting up provides him with more opportunities. Over the last three games, he’s shooting 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from the three-point line.
When his shot isn’t falling, Johnson has turned to working hard on the glass and in the passing lanes. He’s averaging 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals during the Suns winning streak.
He’ll have his hands full Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors, with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the wings. Johnson is up to the challenge and combined with the confidence from his coach, he’ll continue to see more playing time and the fans will continue to see improvement.