When watching quality basketball teams play, there will almost assuredly be one common theme -- great guard play. A team is usually only as good as its leader, and more often than not, that person is also the point guard who sets the table for everyone else on the court. Considering its importance, the point guard position is usually the toughest to learn and adapt to at the professional level as well.
Larry Drew II is the prime example of a late bloomer. Drew went into the collegiate ranks as a highly heralded point guard signing with University of North Carolina, however things didn't go as planned. He then ventured cross country to UCLA for his senior season. Drew averaged 7.5 points and 7.3 assists per game for UCLA, but went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft. He spent his rookie season with Sioux Falls of the NBA D-League where he started 36 of 41 games while averaging 11.4 points and seven assists per contest.
The guard has started --- dating back to last season --- to realize his potential as a distributor at the professional level and that came to a head on Christmas Day, when he broke the single game record for assists in the D-League with 23 in a win against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Drew has been on a tear over the team's last six games, averaging 14.3 assists per contest and, is second in the D-League in assist/turnover ratio at 3.28.
Sioux Falls is getting hot, and it certainly coincides with Drew's ascension as one of the league's top distributors. He is now second in the league at 11.1 assists per night. In 41 contests last season, Drew had six double doubles, but this season, has already logged seven in just 14 total games. Needless to say, Drew is quickly shedding his shoot-first reputation and proving that sometimes players take a little longer to figure it out. At only 24 years old, the young gun still has a shot at the NBA. He's certainly doing all the right things at this point of the season.
Drew hasn't been doing all of this by himself, however. Tyler Johnson is quickly proving himself to be a very important part of Sioux Falls' success this season. Johnson went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, but was quickly signed by the Miami Heat. Johnson had a nice NBA Summer League, averaging 12.5 points on 55% shooting for the Heat. Unfortunately, such production wasn't enough to propel him onto the big league roster, and he was subsequently sent to Sioux Falls as an affiliate player.
Johnson has only played eight games this season, but his team has gone 6-2 in those games. He suffered a strained groin, which sidelined him for about three weeks. The Skyforce went 2-5 without him. He's averaging 19 points, 3.9 rebounds and four assists per contest with shooting splits of 49/52/83.
Since his return from injury, however, the team is 4-1 and Johnson has raised his scoring at 24.2 points per game while shooting 59% from deep as well. Johnson has also proven that he can score in a variety of ways; he's averaging eight points per game in the paint and is getting to the free throw line 5.1 times a night as well. It's clear that Johnson is comfortable shooting off the dribble, coming off screens and as a catch and shoot recipient. His biggest scoring output came against the Texas Legends on December 20th, when he erupted for 31 points in the Skyforce victory.
As seen from the highlight above, Johnson is comfortable scoring in a multitude of ways, and his pure lefty stroke is a thing of beauty when done right.
With the tandem of Drew and Johnson leading the way, Sioux Falls looks to be well on their way to climbing back up the standings this season.