Don't call him the calvary, but this afternoon, Memphis added 26 year old small forward James Johnson of the NBA D-League to their roster. Johnson is 6'9, 245 pounds, and instantly becomes one of the more athletic players on the Grizzlies roster.
Last week we heard rumblings that the Grizzlies were trying out several D-Leaguers, but when it was confirmed that Quincy Pondexter was lost for the season, they put those on hold in hopes of finding someone who could contribute for a longer portion of the season.
Johnson is currently averaging 18.8 points per game to go along with 9 rebounds and 4.8 assist, good enough for a 25.7 efficiency rating. He's not the floor spacer many were hoping for, shooting just 28% from 3 for the season, and right around 30% for his career between the NBA and the D-League, but he is currently shooting higher than both Tayshaun Prince and Jerryd Bayless.
He's spent parts of four seasons in the NBA, with his best year coming with Toronto in 2011. That season, he was one of seven players to average a steal and a block per game. The other 6? Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade, Josh Smith, Demarcus Cousins, and Kenyon Martin. I'm assuming the reason they gave us this stat is so we could instantly develop unrealistically high expectations for the kid.
This is a pretty solid signing for Memphis. His athleticsm alone should earn him instant playing time, and if he can prove be capable enough on offense, I could see him pushing Tayshaun Prince for starters minutes by the end of January, which speaks more to how terrible Prince has been than it does to any upside that Johnson could bring the Grizzlies.