WALTHAM, Mass. — So far, NBA teams have not been eager to ask Nick Johnson to challenge his personal best vertical leap of 47 inches.
In fact, they have been a lot less interested in his measurable athletic abilities or defining his position than they were at May’s NBA draft combine. In the latest stop on his pre-draft workout tour, Johnson said the Boston Celtics were far more interested on seeing him and the other 11 players in attendance go head-to-head on the court.
By now, of course, anyone who might pick Johnson on draft night knows all about his hops, which he inherited from his father, playground legend “Jumpin'” Joey Johnson. But his vertical is more than just some parlor trick.
“I think I use it to my advantage,” Johnson said after Monday’s workout at the Celtics’ practice facility. “I think I use my athleticism for a lot more than just dunking and jumping. I use it on defense a lot. One of my challenges is using it more on offense. I think the NBA game is more spread out, so I’ll have a chance to do that.”
Johnson, the reigning Pac-12 Conference player of the year, is considered one of the better perimeter defenders in this draft. At 6-foot-2 with a so-so handle and inconsistent jump shot, Johnson lacks a specific position. In a sense, Monday’s workout therefore might have been the ideal situation for him.
With a varied collection of guards at the workout, from headstrong scorers like Xavier Thames and Russ Smith to speedsters like Tim Frazier and Chaz Williams, Johnson got a chance to showcase his defensive versatility. How he fared will remain a mystery, since the workouts themselves were closed to reporters, but he sounded optimistic.
“I think teams are starting to warm up to me being a combo guard and me just being a basketball player,” Johnson said. “I think they’re starting to realize I’ll be able to guard the one and two position in the NBA, and that’s something I can do right away. Right now, they really just want to see me use my athleticism a little more and continue to get more comfortable with the ball and knock down shots.”
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