It was a simple twist of fate. Had it not been for Dwyane Wade’s third significant hamstring injury thus far this season, he would not even be here at all. And yet, it now appears that combo guard Tyler Johnson could be here for years to come, as the Miami Heat development machine has churned out another talented rookie.
First, it was Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside has been rampaging through the NBA with reckless abandon, utilizing his massive 7-foot-7-inch wingspan to throw down monstrous alley-oop dunks, snatch rebounds out of the sky from high above the rim, swat basketballs as Godzilla would planes, and generally wreak havoc on both ends of the floor.
Now, it is Johnson, whose exploits have provided promise for the future. Johnson is undersized at 6-foot-3 with a slender frame, but compensates for it with his shooting stroke, athletic abilities and determination. In his limited time, Johnson has shown excellent three-point range that can be leveraged to provide a critical floor-spacing complement to a play-making Wade in the backcourt, as well as the speed and quickness to defend opposing point guards in such a pairing. He has also shown an ability to leverage his big-time athleticism — when he attacks the rim, he’s a potential highlight every time he takes off — to create offensive for himself and others. Despite his physical limitations, Johnson’s skill-set is NBA quality and a perfect fit for the Miami Heat.
For president Pat Riley, head coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat front office, Johnson, who went undrafted in June out of Fresno State, has become a scouted, developed talent. The team paid him $75,000 to attend training camp before he was waived in late October so that he could be directed to the Heat’s NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Johnson played well for the Skyforce, averaging 18.5 points, 4.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He shot 49.0 percent from the field, including 42.6 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Johnson was re-signed by the Heat on Jan. 12, to a 10-day contract paying out $29,843, just before the NBA D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz. It did not amount to much. He was with the team for five games. He was inactive in one and did not play in three others. His only action was 1:44 of mop-up duty in one game, during which he scored two points on a pair of free throws, his only statistics. The Heat then chose not to re-sign him. He went back to the Sykforce on Jan. 22 as an unrestricted free agent.
Five days later, on Jan. 27, Wade strained his right hamstring. Two days after that, Johnson was re-signed to a second 10-day contract.
Johnson had two breakout performances during his second 10-day stint – producing 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in a road win over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 1, followed by an 18-point effort against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
Multiple NBA teams were circling as he again became an unrestricted free agent Sunday morning. The Heat, however, got their man. Read more…