|Position:||PF/SF||Team/Class:||Missouri State (Sr.)|
|Dom Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
Over the last eight years, Alize Johnson has gone from being a virtual unknown to a draft prospect that is on everyone’s radar, and the path that he has traveled has been anything but straight and easy. He’s made it this far with hard work, determination, and grittiness, and those traits show up in his game.
Johnson didn’t attend one of the fancy high schools that pop out basketball prospects like a PEZ dispenser. As a freshman, he was a 5-foot-11 point guard with poor shooting mechanics. However, he continued to grow, as did his game, and as a senior, he averaged 24.1 points, 15.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
Despite a stellar high school career, Johnson wasn’t highly recruited, and more importantly, he received no D1 scholarship offers due to his grades. He spent his first two college seasons at Frank Phillips College. He continued to grow physically during this time, and improved his academics, which ultimately allowed him to land a scholarship at Missouri State of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Johnson is not an overly fluid or athletic player, but he has a diverse game. His overall productivity, including 14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, was among the best in college basketball over the past two seasons with the Bears. Some call him a stretch four, while others call him a point forward. I don’t believe that either description is a perfect fit at this point in time, but there is plenty to like about his game. Johnson is a tweener for sure. He’s sturdily built and strong. He’s undersized to be a four at the next level, especially in terms of wingspan, and he might not be athletic enough to be a three.
Despite playing at the four spot for the Bears, Johnson handled the ball quite a lot, and spent a good portion of his time on the perimeter. He displays point-guard characteristics, on and off the floor, by communicating, leading, and by being unselfish. He sees the floor well, can execute the pick and roll, and can lead the fast break. And he does an outstanding job of finding the open man from the post, be it passing out of a double team or off an offensive rebound. This past season, he averaged nearly 3 assists per game, with a respectable turnover ratio of 1.27. He also averaged 1.2 points plus assists per possession, which ranked in the 64th percentile.
Johnson is a monster on the boards. This season, he ranked fifth in the nation in total rebounds (11.6 per game) and second in defensive rebounds (8.5 per game). He consistently boxes out, continually fights for the ball, jumping multiple times, and he chases down balls out of his area. If he can’t come straight down with the ball, he will keep it alive by tipping it to himself, and he will do this multiple times on the same rebound attempt. He also has strong hands to rip the ball away from other potential rebounders. In short, he hustles and battles.
Johnson’s skill set allows him to turn those rebounds into points. As a defensive rebounder, he can grab the ball and instantly start the break, either by attacking off the dribble or firing crisp passes to his teammates. On the offensive boards, he consistently scores on putbacks (39 this season – 24th most in the country), or kicks the ball out to teammates for easy scores.
As previously noted, Johnson can lead the break and handle the ball in the pick and roll, and he does a very good job of setting up his teammates for scores. However, when he puts the ball on the floor and tries to make plays on his own in the half court, he can struggle. On drives to the basket from the perimeter in the half court, including runners, Johnson made just 25% of his shots this past season. He prefers driving to the right, and if he is forced to go left and/or crossover in traffic, he can be bottled up and turn the ball over. He fared much better when shooting jumpers off the bounce, making a respectable 38% of his attempts. In such cases, he typically uses short, quick dribble moves to create space for his midrange shots, including a nice-looking stepback.
Improving his shooting mechanics was a focus during Johnson’s time at Missouri State, including raising his release point, so perhaps it should be no surprise that his percentages from the outside are a total mixed bag. He shot 39% from 3-point range in 2016-17. This season, that number dropped to 28%. On 2-pointers this season, he made just 32% of his jumpers inside 17 feet, but he made an outstanding 50% of his jumpers between 17 feet and the 3-point line. He was also excellent in his limited pick-and-pop opportunities, averaging 1.25 points per attempt on 42% shooting. Obviously, consistency is an issue that needs to be addressed. From what I can tell, his release is fine, but he does appear to get a lot of torque from his hips into his deeper shots.
With a usage percentage of 27.1, it should come as no surprise that Johnson got to the line often this season, averaging 4.4 free throws per game and making 76 percent of his attempts. While it’s highly unlikely that he will ever be used at such a high rate as a pro, a solid free-throw percentage bodes well for his midrange game.
Johnson might do his best work in the post. Unfortunately, he doesn’t spend a ton of time there (about 20% of his possessions). From the right block, he uses his speed and footwork to regularly weave his way past slower defenders to the rim, even through double teams. On the left block, he is very effective with a right-hand jump hook. Overall, he shot a solid 49% in post-up situations this season.
Off the ball, Johnson sets a fair number of screens, but he is more likely to slip into the post and seal off, or flare out to “pop” position, than he is to roll to the basket. Though he can finish above the rim, he is not a high flyer, and he rarely sees the ball on lobs. He did, however, produce on his limited cuts to the basket this season, making better than 73% of his attempts.
As a defender this season, Johnson averaged a modest .5 steals and .4 blocks per game, and he allowed .9 points per possession, which falls into the average range. He is alert and engaged on the defensive end. He has good lateral movement, and doesn’t have too much trouble guarding on the perimeter. I would not describe him as an aggressive defender, but being such a huge overall contributor to his college team, staying out of foul trouble was highly important. I would like to see him contest more shots from the weakside – he does seem too passive in this area. Also, he tends to wander too far from his man on the weakside, anticipating a rebound opportunity, and when that happens, it can lead to an easy 3-pointer for the opponent. In the post, he doesn’t have ideal size, length and lift to battle and contest fours at the next level. Adding muscle would help some in this area.
Loyola-Chicago’s Final Four appearance proved once again that the players from the Missouri Valley can ball, and Johnson was one of the best, if not the best, player in that conference over the past two seasons. His effort, dedication, rebounding and passing skills all stand out. On the offensive end, much of what worked for him at college, probably won’t work for him as pro – mainly, I highly doubt that he will be a primary ball handler playing on the perimeter because he can struggle to score off the bounce. He does, however, show promise as a pick-and-pop option, a cutter, and a scorer in the post, so his destiny is likely as a stretch four. In order for that to happen, he must improve his consistency from the outside. Defensively, his below-average wingspan is a big concern, as it hinders his ability to block shots, among other things. His effort and foot speed are solid, but he needs to play with better overall awareness and add muscle to compete in the post. As it stands, Johnson is a borderline second-round pick. As the early entries pull out, his chances will improve, and with good workouts, he could easily secure a spot in the draft.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports and RealGM, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com. I would like to thank the Missouri State Athletic Department for all of its assistance, including supplying photos. Some of the background information included came from a recent article written by C.J. Moore.