Given the recent roster moves and continued struggles, I think it would be easy to suggest that the Chicago Bulls are all-in on this whole tanking thing. . With the benching of veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, Chicago has decided to put the rest of their remaining games in the hands of their young guys. With the new theme of “player development” sweeping through the organization, the Bulls have looked at new avenues to find time for their young players.
However, the main club isn’t the only place where Chicago might find some decent pieces for the future. For example, the Windy City Bulls also have their own mini core of guys who could potentially one day find themselves a role in the NBA. While it’s usually Antonio Blakeney who gets all the headlines and attention, deservedly so, there is another player for WCB who has been a solid contributor all season. That guy is power forward Jaylen Johnson.
Johnson has quietly had a solid season for the WCB, averaging 12.3 points, 8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game on 47% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. Although his production has been inconsistent this year, he’s shown the type of skills that might intrigue a lot of NBA scouts. Over the remainder of this piece, we’ll examine some clips from this season and show where Johnson impresses.
(0:24-0:30) This is something does often with Johnson in which they give him the ball at the top of the three-point line and initiate some offensive action through him. Here he gets the pass and immediately goes to his right. Meanwhile on the right hand side, Brandon Wood is running towards Johnson and makes it look as if this is a simple handoff which turns into a possible slip screen scenario for the big man. However the pass never gets made.
As soon as Wood takes a couple of shifts to his left, his man steps up and creates a driving lane for Johnson. So using the possibility of a handoff as a decoy, Johnson is able to power through and drive to the hoop. With his defender on his left hand side, Johnson has one more obstacle to clear. It’s a Spur defender has dropped down near the restricted area looking to draw a charge. Seeing the defender, Johnson smartly jumps sideways, avoiding the body of the defender and a charge call. Flying over the side of the defender, he’s able to easily bank a layup off the backboard for an impressive bucket.
Johnson has also showed that he can also throw down some hammer dunks when he gets into the lane. It’s not everyday we see this type of athleticism and the ability to adjust around defenders near the rim is very rare. Despite the fact that he shoots at an average efficiency (53% TS), Johnson can be a guy in the NBA who can initiate his own offense by taking what the defense gives him. He can also be a good roll man off the PNR with his strength and scoring in the paint.
However he can do a lot more than just score the basketball. For a big man he has some decent passing skills, averaging 3 assists per game this season, and knows when to pick out the right pass.
(1:21-1:28) This was a smartly drawn up play by head coach Charlie Henry where all parts worked in perfection for a nice looking basket. In semi transition, Mychal Mulder gives a pass to Johnson who finds himself at the top of the three-point line again. Meanwhile, Ryan Arcidiacono makes it look as if he’s going to set a screen for Wood as he curls towards a three-point shot. However, it’s another decoy as the former Villanova point guard takes a couple of steps towards Wood then cuts to the basket. Standing at the top of the offensive court, Johnson takes one dribble to his right before zipping a wicked pass to the cutting Arcidiacono for the layup. It was a tight angled pass and he had to get that bounce pass to a tee, which he did.
(1:47- 1:52) Here to begin this play, Johnson gets a pass at the top of the three-point line. Meanwhile, at the top of the right baseline, near the three-point line, Mulder takes advantage of some lazy defense by his man and makes a smart cut towards the basket. Johnson sees Mulder and then fires a bullet to him just as the guard gets underneath the basket. From there it was a simple easy layup and two points for the Windy City Bulls. The pass from Johnson was pretty impressive as it was on time and on target, putting the ball exactly where it needed to be placed.
Johnson also had a solid bounce pass out of the post to a cutting Cristiano Felicio, which led to an easy dunk. It’s not often talked about but Johnson’s passing is a very underrated part of his game. Especially from outside of the paint. This could really enhance Johnson’s role in small ball lineups when he has to play outside of the paint. With his precision passing, he could give a team some solid bench minutes.
However, Johnson has been playing poor of late, especially in the month of February. His points per game has dropped from 15.3 to 11.2 despite his field goal attempts barely decreasing. Johnson’s minutes also dropped by 5 from 36.1 to 31.2. It was a weird month for him but given how the rest of his season has gone, hopefully it’s just a bump in the road and you can chalk this down as that.
Despite his struggles of late, Jaylen Johnson has shown some promise offensively. At 6’9, Johnson is big enough to play power forward in the G-League and could be a small ball four in the big leagues. He has shown some good enough skills as an energy guy. With Chicago’s crowded front court, putting on the Bulls jersey seems almost unlikely. However, his play should at least some teams to come calling for an athletic big who you can bring off the bench.