JaJuan Johnson Lacks Physical Strength, But He’ll Grow Under Danny Ainge, Celtics


Jun 29, 2011

JaJuan Johnson Lacks Physical Strength, But He'll Grow Under Danny Ainge, Celtics When you're picking from a less-than-premium position in the NBA draft — like, say, the No. 25 spot in the first round of a weak draft — you inevitably find yourself settling for a player with clear weaknesses.

Either he's missing a fundamental basketball skill — he can't score, he can't share the ball, he can't play defense — or it's a character thing. He could be immature, selfish, unprepared mentally, and so on, and so forth. When you're scraping the bottom of the barrel, you're not going to find golden boys. You're getting problem children.

That said, Danny Ainge might be the best in the business at finding the guy who has the "right problem."

Kendrick Perkins can't score? That's fine — draft him at No. 27 and put him next to Paul Pierce in his prime. No offense necessary out of him.

Al Jefferson can't play D? Easy — put him next to Perkins.

Glen Davis is a little immature? Put him in the same locker room with three of the game's best veterans. That'll teach him.

Every post-lottery pick has weaknesses. Ainge is the master of knowing those weaknesses and putting the player in a position to thrive anyway.

That brings us to JaJuan Johnson. The Purdue power forward was a huge star in college, a prolific scorer and a consensus All-American. But like any No. 25 pick in a weak draft, he's got a weakness. In this case, his weakness is his strength. Or lack thereof.

"I'm definitely hoping to put on some weight," Johnson said when introduced to reporters Monday in Brighton. "I know it'll happen. I'll definitely put the time in in the weight room, and eat, and all of that."

To call Johnson scrawny would be an absurd understatement. Johnson has pipe cleaners for legs. It's a miracle he can support his upper body without tipping over.

But here's the thing: Strength is an easily fixable flaw. It's a lot simpler to add muscle than to add a fadeaway jumper, and a meeting with a strength trainer is also a lot easier than a meeting with a shrink.

All Johnson has to do is eat right, spend time in the weight room and — once that pesky lockout is over, that is — consult regularly with the Celtics' training staff. He has the power to change his wiry 220-pound frame.

Johnson is the perfect Ainge pick. He has a clear weakness, but he'll be able to move past it. And the Celtics, a veteran team with little interest in overusing their rookies, are in the perfect position to wait patiently.

When asked if Johnson was too skinny to be a power forward in the pros, Ainge answered simply, "Well, we wouldn't have drafted him if we had that issue."

Translation: Down the road, the issue won't be there anymore.

Danny Ainge has a history of turning late first-round picks into solid professional players. JaJuan Johnson will turn out to be yet another fine example of that.

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