Some dominant college players just turn out to be better college players. Tyler Hansbrough is the all-time leading scorer in ACC basketball history with over 2,800 points scored in his four-year career and has never averaged more than 11 points in his seven-year NBA career. The translation to the pros can go a few different ways. For example, look at how guys like J.J. Redick and Doug McDermott have adapted and how someone like Jimmer Fredette has struggled.
When it comes to being NBA ready, probably the most coveted and assuring trait for a player is pure athleticism. This brings me to North Carolina senior forward Brice Johnson, who NBADraft.net currently has projected to be selected 11th overall to the Orlando Magic (which could be a little strange positionally with their roster, but I generally like the sound of it).
Last yr's Duke-Wis title game featured 3 players who'd go top 10 in draft & 5 in top 24. This yr: BriceJ MIGHT be late 1st. Yet …
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 5, 2016
Johnson’s senior season was the kind that turns heads. His improvement from his freshman year culminated into one of college basketball’s 6’9 double-double nightmares. Johnson was considered more of a glue guy with bounce last season. This season he proved that he could dominate basketball games with his size, skill, and touch.
Fortunately for Carolina, Johnson’s evolution paved the way for their national championship appearance on Monday night, and fortunately for Johnson, playing into April gave him more of an opportunity to showcase his abilities on the biggest basketball stage.
It’s hard to pin a ceiling on Johnson as an NBA player, because honestly, he already has what it would take to be a legitimate pro. With his mobility at his size he can certainly keep up with the pace, and his knack for rebounding is true, so making a big impact there will be tied to the universal requirement of needing to get stronger physically. Johnson can’t yet be considered a playmaking forward, so he’ll need to be able to make his plays on the glass at the next level. He’ll also have to adjust to defending more playmaking forwards, which I think he’s ready for.
That’s not to say that Johnson can’t become a viable offensive weapon in the NBA. I do believe he has all of the tacit foundational skills, natural ability, as well as IQ to become something of a “stud”. I think he has the potential to become a do-it-all kind of guy, but that comes down to how well he can polish up his shooting and ball handling. The highest possible ceiling for Brice Johnson in the NBA, in my estimation, is a star. He may not have torched the college game like McDermott or Redick, but what he brings to the table is even more invaluable in today’s NBA. If he continues to improve and expand his game, that ceiling could become attainable.