Boston Celtics fans, it’s time to dance again!
The Big Dance, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, resumes play tonight, with eight teams set to scratch and claw their way into the Elite Eight. Not every team will win, but I can almost guarantee that all of us fans WILL, as this round of play has produced some of the most dramatic upsets and finishes in college basketball history.
Of course, I’m not just watching tonight’s games because I’m a college hoops fan; I’m also watching to see which NBA hopeful makes the biggest impression on me. Since the Celtics have two picks in the first round for the upcoming NBA draft, I’m going to highlight a player that Boston could conceivably use its second pick on:
Nick Johnson, G Arizona Wildcats
Johnson’s teammate, Aaron Gordon, may be getting more press due to his length, athleticism, and ever-growing collection of breath-taking dunks, but the argument can be made that Arizona’s most valuable player in the tournament so far has been the 6’3″ guard, not the high-flying power forward.
It’s not just the fact that Johnson has scored more (albeit only one point) than Gordon. Johnson played 68 out of a possible 80 minutes in the first two rounds of the tournament, and has turned the ball over a mere three time while dishing out six dimes and creating 4 steals. In the Wildcats’ game against Gonzaga, Johnson did everything except sell beer at the concession stands, stuffing the stat sheet with his 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocked shots, and 3 steals. His teammate Gordon threw down an impressive number of dunks that night en route to 18 points, but Gordon’s impact on the game was limited by the fact that he sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble and only played 23 minutes in that game. Without Johnson’s play, Arizona would have had a much more difficult time dispatching the ‘Zags.
One of the knocks on Johnson is that he isn’t much of a point guard . . . but that criticism is a moot point as far as the Boston Celtics are concerned, since they would not be drafting him to run the point. Johnson is a solid threat from behind the arc, but also has the athleticism and quickness to run the break and get to the rim. And, as an added bonus, Johnson is a solid defender, with great vision and instincts (Johnson averaged 1.3 steals per game this season).
I think the thing I like the best about Johnson’s game is that he has improved practically every aspect of his game during his three years with Arizona. His commitment to developing as a player on both sides of the court is encouraging, and he seems like the sort of player who would thrive in Brad Stevens’ system. I’m not a fan of Arizona per se, but since they start two players I could easily see wearing Celtics green and white next year, I’m pulling for these Wildcats to enjoy another weekend of success beginning tonight.