Could Toronto grab Jalen Johnson after Duke opt-out?


The Toronto Raptors have made up a lot of ground and are making a run for the postseason, but a savvy front office led by the likes of Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster is certainly looking at who the Raptors could snag in the 2021 NBA Draft. A potential Raptors draft pick made headlines after Duke forward Jalen Johnson decided to opt-out of the remainder of the Blue Devils’ season.

Johnson, who was the 13th-ranked recruit in the country last season, was averaging 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. However, Duke was just 5-8 in games he played in, and Johnson thinks that opting out of the remainder of the season, eliminating the chance of an injury ruining his draft stock, is the most prudent path to pursue.

While some might question his desire to play the game (an argument that makes less sense the more you analyze it), pro teams will still be all over Johnson, as his ability to put the ball in the basket and wear several different hats on both sides of the floor will make him a very treasured asset.

With the Raptors desperately in need of more interior defense and some young, energetic scorers on the offensive end, will the former Blue Devil be a good fit in Nick Nurse’ scheme north of the border?

Will potential Raptors draft pick Jalen Johnson fit in Toronto?

Johnson’s best trait is his ability to play multiple positions, as he can bring the ball up the court and operate on the perimeter while also playing down in the low post. While his best fit in the pros is either a long wing that plays stellar defense or a very skilled power forward in the post, Johnson might be able to get some reps in at point guard.

Not only has he proven to be a solid defender on the perimeter and in the paint at the collegiate level, but he can crash the boards and start a fast break with ease. Those traits will serve him well in Toronto.

The biggest issue with Johnson at the moment is what he can do on offense. His jump shot can start to fail him at times, and he isn’t as comfortable as some other top picks with regards to creating his own shot off of the dribble.

However, Johnson made 52% of his shots during his only year in Durham, and he shot 44% from beyond the 3-point line, albeit on 1.4 attempts per game. If he gets more volume and gets some mentorship on his shooting motion, Johnson could become more than just a midrange specialist on the offensive end.

Toronto could use a powerful center like North Carolina’s Day’Ron Sharpe or a do-it-all-guard like Florida State’s Scottie Barnes, who Bleacher Report linked to the Raptors. Even with those connections, Johnson could be headed for Canada if Ujiri decides to pick the best player available regardless of position.

Much like Barnes, Johnson might not be the best fit on the Raptors roster as currently constructed. However, Johnson is an extremely refined player on both sides of the ball, and his offensive ceiling is simply mouth-watering. Even after leaving Duke at the alter, NBA teams will be tripping over themselves to get a chance at him.