Column: Nick Johnson leads former Wildcats in NBA Summer League
Former Arizona guard Nick Johnson jumps to block San Diego State forward Winston Sheppard during Arizona’s 70-64 victory against SDSU at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Johnson led his team to the 2014 Las Vegas NBA Summer League championship game, where his Houston Rockets were defeated 77-68 by the Sacramento Kings.
Headlining five former Wildcats in the 2014 NBA Summer League is Sacramento Kings forward Derrick Williams, who is going on his fourth season in the Association.
In addition to Williams, 2014 draft picks Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson join 2013 draft picks Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett as Wildcats listed on summer league rosters.
Hill and Jerrett were both held out of summer league play due to injuries.
Nick Johnson started off the summer league in Orlando and recorded 18 points in his debut against the Detroit Pistons. That first game is where Johnson really showed his athletic ability and potential to play in the NBA in one move.
Johnson cut to the bucket and posterized Detroit’s Tim Ohlbrecht. The left-handed slam earned a spot on ESPN’s top plays.
That game was just the start for Johnson, as he has scored in double-figures every single game except for an eight-point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers. Johnson even compiled a triple-double against the Brooklyn Nets.
Nick Johnson was selected 42nd overall by the Houston Rockets. His selection is widely believed to be a diamond in the rough.
To give Johnson even more confidence, the Rockets traded PG Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers and let Chandler Parsons sign with Dallas in an attempt to clear cap space for Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony, but instead couldn’t land either one in free agency.
Add up the minutes opened by those departures and we could see a rookie like Johnson shine for the Rockets.
The next Wildcat to shine in the summer league is 2014 lottery pick Aaron Gordon.
Gordon hasn’t had as much exposure as Johnson, simply because Johnson is on the better summer team. In the five games the Orlando Magic played the entire summer, Gordon averaged less than eight points and seven rebounds.
The No. 4 overall pick has shown glimpses of a jump shot but it’s obvious his shot is still a project.
The next and oldest Wildcat in the NBA summer league is Derrick Williams. Many people wouldn’t think Williams would still be in the summer league especially going into his fourth season in the Association.
Williams averaged just 8.0 PPG this past season and is looking to return to a young and talented Kings roster.
It’s safe to say Williams is entering a make-or-break season.
To make things more interesting, Johnson and his Rockets matched up against Williams and his Sacramento Kings for the NBA Summer League championship in Las Vegas on Monday.
However, Williams was ruled out due to coach’s decision, leaving Johnson as the only former Wildcat in the final game.
In the second quarter of the championship game, Johnson made another athletic play that would be a highlight of the game. The combo-guard caught an alley-oop and finished the dunk reverse style.
Johnson lead the way for the Rockets with 17 points but it wasn’t enough as the Kings finished the
game on a 15-2 run and Sacramento took the game 77-68.
—Follow Justin Spears @Hercules_52