Box score watchers will see Armon Johnson’s six-point, three-assist outing against the Phoenix Suns as a marginal contribution, yet it was anything but. Almost all of the Blazer regulars put on a show, but Johnson, a second round pick partially responsible for picking up some of the minutes left behind by Jerryd Bayless, stood out nonetheless. NBA fans may not have too many chances to watch the lightning-fast Patty Mills in action as a part of the Blazer backcourt this season, but watching Johnson help out off the bench is a hell of a consolation prize.
Johnson’s defense is the most immediately captivating asset of his game. He spent many of his nine minutes D-ing up Suns backup Goran Dragic, and rarely did Johnson afford Dragic a step in any direction without blanketing him. His speed makes him an already effective pick-and-roll defender, and that technique will only improve as Johnson gets more and more opportunities to play. In the meantime, he’s likely already one of Portland’s most effective perimeter defenders, an attribute that should help keep him on the court, even with some stiff competition for minutes in the Blazers’ rotation.
Not that Johnson’s performance on offense wasn’t equally praise-worthy. He’s still not an NBA-ready jumpshooter, but Johnson is a very natural playmaker. One of the game’s signature plays was a fast break dish from Johnson to a streaking Wesley Matthews, and that was hardly the only time that Johnson showed off a knack for play creation.
So far, so good for Armon. He’s not going to shock the world in nine-minute spurts, but he’s already quietly winning over NBA die-hards with his quickness, vision, and defense.