By now, there have been dozens of names suggested as good fits for the San Antonio Spurs at 12th. With so many promising prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft and many needs to address, it will come down to what the front office thinks is most pressing. Lately, Duke's Jalen Johnson has been floating around toward the mid-to-late lottery area, making him a possible option for the Silver and Black.
In early July, Air Alamo writer Damien Bartonek examined whether some of Johnson's troubling qualities are worth his intriguing upside. In short, the biggest knock on Jalen is his commitment level, as he decided to opt-out of Duke's regular season with three weeks left.
As it turns out, many NBA scouts believe the hesitancy is very real and warranted.
In a column for The Athletic, Seth Green consulted with five scouts (subscription required) to give their opinions on the top 50 2021 NBA Draft prospects. While impressed with the 6-9 forward's size and athleticism, the scouts didn't mince words when it comes to him being a questionable choice.
Outside of shooting being a big concern, at least one scout said it seems like "he runs away from adversity." "I wouldn't feel good about taking him," said another scout. Jalen not only left Duke before the season was over but also did similar things in high school.
Mike Decourcy of SportingNews.com explained in February:
"Johnson transferred to IMG Academy in Florida from Nicolet High in Glendale after his junior season, then left IMG roughly a month into the season. "This is not the first time he’s had an issue with a team, so that’s the bigger concern,” said one NBA personnel executive. "If that doesn’t give you pause, I don’t know what will."
Still, one important thing to remember is Jalen Johnson is only 19 years old. The guy wasn't even around for Y2K. In a recent column in the Sacramento Bee, he disputed the red flags warnings against him.
"I don’t like seeing that stuff and I know my parents see that stuff, and I know it hurts them, " he said. "At the end of the day these people are making judgments without knowing me, without speaking to me, without saying a word to me."
Despite the negative chatter in NBA circles, Johnson feels like fate is in control now.
"I don’t care about where I get picked,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, wherever I get picked, that’s where it’s meant to be."
On draft night, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jalen land somewhere in the lottery, and most of that will be based on his undeniable talent. For a young man seeking to redeem his reputation, the NBA is quite a place to start.