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Brice Johnson – 6’9” Power Forward, University of North Carolina, 21 Years Old
In his senior season at North Carolina, Brice Johnson came into his own, developing into one of the best college basketball players in the country. He averaged 17.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game this past season. He was a force to be reckoned with in the low post on a nightly basis, dominating the boards and finishing with authority around the rim. Johnson’s size and strength helped lead North Carolina all the way to the NCAA Championship game, where the top seeded Tar Heels fell to the Villanova Wildcats on Kris Jenkins’ legendary buzzer beater. Following a strong senior campaign in which he was named as a finalist for the prestigious Wooden Award, the UNC senior enters the draft as a prospective late first round or early second round pick.
Strengths – While a bit undersized at 6’9”, Johnson is a terrific athlete with elite explosiveness. His quickness, agility, and leaping ability make him one of the most athletic prospects in the entire draft. His main offensive contributions in the NBA will likely come as a finisher off of cuts, fast breaks, and offensive rebounds. Speaking of rebounding, Johnson is an absolute beast on the boards; he uses his excellent motor to go after everything on the glass. Based on just sheer athleticism, Johnson is a very solid defender, yet there is room for improvement that should come naturally as he learns from an NBA defensive system. One thing that Johnson has over many other players is a tremendous amount of experience. In addition to playing for a full four years in college under one of the game’s best coaches, Roy Williams, the Tar Heel forward was in the NCAA Tournament every year, which of course included this year’s run at the National Championship. Johnson improved his leadership skills and maturity as a senior this past season at UNC. If teams want to take a look at Brice Johnson’s offensive strengths, then they should watch the tape from the Duke-UNC game at Chapel Hill from earlier this year. In a dominant performance, he dropped 29 points on 13-17 shooting while grabbing 19 rebounds, 7 of which came off the offensive glass. Despite the loss to the rivaled Blue Devils, Brice Johnson was an absolute monster that game.
Weaknesses – Despite his superior athleticism, Johnson needs to add strength to compete with the big boys in the NBA. If he bulks up without losing too much of his quickness and agility, he can become a legitimate threat in this league. The NBA’s movement towards small ball lineups could be both a positive and negative for Johnson’s game. The fact that he’s slightly undersized for a traditional power forward shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially considering the fact that teams rarely tend to play two players hovering around seven feet tall at the same time anymore. However, most small ball lineups consist of forwards who can shoot well, something that Johnson needs to work on. He only took 44 shots outside of the paint last season, and he connected on just 36% of them. The eye test and his 78% mark from the free throw line suggest that Johnson may become a capable mid-range shooter if he puts the work in, but he’s certainly not there yet. By no means does it look like Johnson will ever develop into a consistent three point shooter.
NBA Potential – It doesn’t seem like Brice Johnson will ever dominate the NBA quite like he dominated the college game, but he very well may turn into a quality NBA player. Backup power forward is probably his most likely role, but his ceiling can definitely be as high as a quality starter. With the athleticism, motor, and work ethic that Johnson has, he has the potential to surpass the expectations that most scouts will give him.
NBA Player Comparison – Johnson resembles a lot of what Derrick Favors brings to the table, especially when he first came out of Georgia Tech – raw, freakish athleticism with a tremendous ability to finish around the rim and attack the boards. Neither player can be counted on to create his own shot on a consistent basis, yet they still find ways to put themselves in position to score. Favors is slightly longer, stronger, and taller, but he doesn’t quite have the motor and experience that Johnson does coming out of North Carolina.
Look out for Brice Johnson on draft day, and be sure to keep yourself updated with our complete coverage of the 2016 NBA Draft.
SYRACUSE, NY – JANUARY 09: Brice Johnson #11 of the North Carolina Tar Heels controls a rebound during the game against the Syracuse Orange on January 9, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. North Carolina defeats Syracuse 84-73. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)