OKC Thunder season reviews – Trio of reserves: Collison, Singler, Johnson

OKC Thunder. Nick Collison (Photo by Layne Murdoch Sr./NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder. Nick Collison (Photo by Layne Murdoch Sr./NBAE via Getty Images) /
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ORLANDO, FL – NOVEMBER 29: Dakari Johnson
ORLANDO, FL – NOVEMBER 29: Dakari Johnson /

Dakari Johnson:

In his first full year with the Thunder varsity team, 22-year old big man Dakari Johnson did what he could with limited playing time.

Johnson paid his dues in the G-League his first two seasons out of Kentucky, and finally got an opportunity to compete at the highest level this campaign. He continued to gain experience in the G-League this season, but remained on call for GM Sam Presti throughout. It may not have been much, but his opportunities were there.

Season Stats:

  • Games played: 31
  • Points: 1.8
  • Rebounds: 1.1
  • Assists: 0.3
  • Blocks: 0.3
  • Steals: 0.2
  • Field goal percentage: .564

While he hasn’t been proven in the NBA, Johnson has been dominant in the G-League for the past three seasons. He averaged a double-double with 23.3 points and 10 boards in his 10 games this past season, including a 29-point outing against the Santa Cruz Warriors. His dominance in the post gave him a defensive rating of 100.7 and a net rating of eight.

Although the varsity level is a step above the G-League, there is no denying Johnson’s prowess in the latter.  DJ may not be as dominant at the varsity level, but he’s still young and has shown the ability to continuing improving. The question is whether Billy Donovan will ever commit to giving him consistent playing time.

Offseason homework:

The curiosity surrounding Johnson is OKC has no true backup center to Steven Adams. Although Jerami Grant has been used in small ball lineups there is still room for another player of Johnson’s ilk. Yet, the fact Donovan was so hesitant to use Johnson either speaks to a lack of trust for the big man or a feeling he isn’t ready.

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The fact is DJ is capable. From here, it’s just a matter of continuing to grow in all facets of the game. Johnson should work on his scoring from the low post, improve defensively with a view to his lateral movement and rebounding.

More specifically, Johnson should do film sessions with the coaches to analyze how to defend with the intent of altering  opponent shots and gaining better rebound positioning. Offensively, a soft shooting touch around the rim and from mid-range wouldn’t be expected, but it would be a nice bonus.

In essence, adding offensive versatility and improving his overall defense (without fouling) is the goal.

This season afforded Johnson a few games of experience, his motivation this summer should be making himself a priority reserve contributor. If he dedicates his summer to improvement the opportunity for playing time is there. Especially given the salary issues which plague the OKC Thunder if Paul George and Carmelo Anthony both return.

Sam Presti and Billy Donovan both earmarked Internal growth and continuity as the mandate for next season. To that end, Dakari Johnson’s fate (and playing time) is in his own hands.