The Miami Heat bench has been anything but special this season. It had very high expectations coming into the year bringing in veterans Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green, but they have surely disappointed in the 11 games the Heat have played in thus far. Josh McRoberts has been less than stellar with the minutes that he has been given. However, trading away Mario Chalmers allowed for an unlikely candidate to step up and second-year guard Tyler Johnson has seized the opportunity.
Thursday night against the short-handed Sacramento Kings, Johnson played 25 minutes off the bench and contributed 19 points to really give the Heat the lift that they needed. All Heat fans know how much this team loves to play to the level of their competition and they should have blown the Kings out, especially playing at home, but it was a solid win and Johnson was outstanding. The Heat were up by a comfortable margin throughout the game and when Dwyane Wade or Goran Dragic needed a breather, Johnson filled in remarkably well. With Green doing whatever it is that he did the night that got him suspended two games, it really paved the way for Johnson to show what he is capable of.
Johnson is a gifted athlete who has really improved his game since his rookie season. His game seems to be very similar to teammate Goran Dragics’. Both are left-handed point guards who somehow always find a way to get easy layups in the half-court offense and both love shooting the mid-range jump shot. Johnson has drastically improved his shooting since last season. The potential that Johnson has rises with each game and he is capable of really being a solid player in the NBA for a very long time. It is amazing how Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra seem to find these no-name guys and utilize them to the best of their ability.
So far this season, Johnson has averaged over 21 minutes per game, which is probably much more than anyone would have anticipated for the young man out of Fresno State and he has averaged nine points per game. This was just his 42nd game of his NBA career and there is much more room for improvement. It remains to be seen what he can bring to the table during the playoffs, but playing around veterans such as Dragic, Wade and Chris Bosh can only help. The Heat are one of the oldest teams in the NBA and Johnson playing off of these experienced guys will only help him become a much more successful player.