After scoring 29 points on Day 1 of NBA G League Winter Showcase to help the Lakeland Magic secure an early victory in Las Vegas, Two-Way Player BJ Johnson stood tall with 352 total points on the season campaign, good for most in all of the NBA G League as of December 20.
The Syracuse/LaSalle product has always served as quite the sharpshooter, but he’s no longer someone who just spaces the floor. Johnson has taken his game to the next level, relishing big moments and embracing increased pressure. He’s been quite the leading man for Lakeland and has demonstrated more explosiveness around the rim this season. Such increased versatility on the offensive end is proving that he can still find ways to beat the defense, even if they pester him along the perimeter. If given even the smallest bit of room, he’ll charge to the basket.
— Lakeland Magic (@LakelandMagic) December 20, 2019
His progression has been impressive, but even last season, teams were making note of his evident potential. Johnson received NBA Call-Ups to the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings, appearing in seven games. Interestingly enough, his promotion to the Kings coincided with the NBA G League Playoffs and Sacramento assigned him back to Lakeland to play out the postseason.
“That said a lot about their front office staff to allow me to do that. To try and finish what we started, that was very exciting,” Johnson said.
But this season has been all about the Magic. After watching other teams also make note of Johnson’s growth, Orlando brought the 23-year old into training camp this past fall, before making him the first NBA Call-Up of the season with a Two-Way contract. They’ve continued to keep eyes on him, and this latest display of faith was proof they like what they see.
“It definitely brings me confidence,” he said of his relationship with the organization. “Knowing that the front office has that faith in me allows me to play to my full abilities, whether I’m in Orlando or Lakeland. I think my job is to make open shots, give constant effort, and play good defense.”
The proof is in the pudding for Johnson. He’s averaging 21.9 points (up from 15.4 last year) and 2.3 steals (up from 1.4 last year) on the season.
Still a youngster in year two of his pro career, there’s no doubt he’s found his groove.
“I think playing with Lakeland last year allowed me to come in and gel with a lot of the guys. That’s what’s tough for everyone initially, but as time goes on, you become more comfortable and success follows,” Johnson explained of the NBA G League grind. “I feel like I carried a lot of confidence with me from last year into this year.”
Certainly, the increasingly familiar surroundings help. The scenery may be the same from last season, but the circumstances have greater stakes. As the season goes on, Orlando will look to Johnson to contribute and display even more of his prowess.
“It’s all a warm-up. The two teams have similar concepts, so my time in Lakeland helps sharpen my mental playbook in a sense,” he asserted.