JuJuan Johnson is not the sexiest pick the Knicks could take at 17 nor is he one likely to get the fanbase the most excited, however he may be the best pick for us at this moment. Now I will admit he probably is not the guy we are going to go with, but he is maybe the guy we should draft. I actually believe Jeremy Tyler has a better chance of getting his name called at 17 than JuJuan, but here are my two cents.
Johnson's two biggest problems in this draft are the following, his age (22) and his weight or lack their of. If Johnson were coming into this draft at 19 with his game and about 15-20lbs more in weight, he would be hyped as a top 5 pick. That right there endears this kid to me, since I have a penchant for guys deemed "too old." Well my feeling is that if a player's biggest flaw is he stayed all 4 years in school and he needs to gain some weight, then I do not consider those problems.
Now Mike D'Antoni is the head coach of the Knicks, and we know that D'Antoni will not shy away from playing Johnson at the 4 spot simply because he does not weigh 240lbs. Secondly the kid has an excellent perimeter game, is very quick, and handles the ball well, so D'Antoni would not even shy away from using him at the SF spot some as well. Also the fact that he has a polished offensive game, is mature, and reportedly very coachable will not do anything to hurt his chances with D'Antoni in terms of seeing court time.
D'Antoni likes to create match up problems and Johnson fits that mold. When used at the PF, Johnson's ability to shoot perimeter jumpshots will help pull bigger PF's away from the basket, which aids the pick and roll. Johnson has a very quick first step and is a decent ball handler so once he has established his mid range jump shot and forces his defender to get up on him, he also has the ability to take a bigger man off the dribble and get to the rim where he has the explosiveness to finish and he is also an excellent free throw shooter so he will pay dividends at the line even if he doesn't finish his drives. Think people was that not the reason, that D'Antoni used Wilson Chandler at the 4 so much last year?
As mentioned Johnson is also very quick quick, quick enough in fact to be effective playing some small forward as he can stay in front of 3's and has the length to bother their shot attempts. Therefore D'Antoni in addition to playing him at the 4 spot, would not be hesitant to use him off the bench at small forward either. While Johnson is not a 3pt shooter (although he supposedly shot the 3 well in his workout with the Wizards), if paired at forward with a guy like Shawne Williams, who does shoot the 3 ball decently, D'Antoni can take advantage of another strength Johnson has, his very good post up game. Johnson is the rare college player who is eually as dangerous in the post as he is on the perimeter. While scouts question whether he will be able to effectively post up bigger PF's at the NBA level, not one has looked at the implication of his post game if he is used as a 3/4 hybrid at the next level. Johnson will be able to post up many SF's effectively. Many people have the misconception that D'Antoni does not like post play, that is false. D'Antoni wants guys to cut to the low post and not camp out there. Think back to PHX, both Amar'e (pre-jump shot) and Shawn Marion posted up alot. How often did we see Marion use a dive cut off the Nash/Amar'e pick and roll action get to the low block and with a quick entry pass usually could catch turn and get an easy 6-8 foot jump hook or turn around jumper over his man before help arrives. D'Antoni would use Johnson in the same way when at the 3 spot. Put him on the elbow opposite Amar'e and when the pick and roll is run, send him on a dive cut behind it, and if the PNR is bottled up a quick swing pass sets up Johnson one on one in the post at point blank range, where with his length and leaping ability he should have little problem elevating and getting a shot off over most small forwards.
Johnson also has great hands and with the already mentioned mid-range jumpshot could be used in pick and roll and pick and pop situations as well.
Lastly weight and strength are not synonymous, playing in the big ten, I can tell you I have seen quite a few of Johnson's games and this kid frequently went up against guys 20-30lbs heavier than him and did not get pushed around, which indicates that he is stronger than he looks, he averaged 8.6 rebounds a game in a conference where there are plenty beefy guys, so he should be able to hold his own most nights on the boards in the NBA. He also played for a coach who "preaches defense," and was a pretty solid defender at the college level and was an above average shot blocker, so at the very worse he will be a decent weak-side help defender as a pro.
JuJuan Johnson is a kid who with his skills, athleticism, maturity, and coachability, would easily be able to find minutes in D'Antoni's rotation. Therefore for that reason alone, the fact that D'Antoni would play this kid, we should draft him. There may be sexier names and guys with more upside, but with our depth issues and lack of draft picks going forward we need to draft a guy who can play and who our coach will play. JuJuan Johnson fits the bill.