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2022 NBA Draft Prospect Previews: Johnny Juzang

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Juzang is a wing prospect out of UCLA. At the 2021 NBA Draft Combine he measure in at 6-foot-7, 209 pounds, with a 6-foot-10.5 wingspan.

Many experts and writers in the NCAA Basketball community have him ranked as one of the top college players in the nation, yet many NBA Draft experts rank him in the low first to high second round when it comes to his draft grade. Why is there such a disparity? Let’s dive into his game and try to find out why college basketball loves him and what pro scouts and evaluators are concerned about as far as his chances at an NBA career.

Johnny Juzang by the Numbers

  • Last season at UCLA Juzang put up the following per game stats: 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
  • His shooting splits were: 50.7% from two-point range, 35.3% from three-point distance, and 87.7% from the free throw line
  • All of this translated to an advanced stat-line of: 54.8% True Shooting, 10.6% Assist Percentage, 9.8% Turnover Rate, on 26.9% Usage

His stats don’t pop out at you, but as anyone who watched UCLA’s title run will tell you, Juzang can make a big impact whenever he is on the court.

What He Does Well

Juzang is a jump-shooter first and foremost. I believe this is partly why so many evaluators out there are lukewarm on his potential. There appears to be skepticism he can create his own shot off the bounce, but I don’t find that to be entirely true.

When you look at his shot distribution, you will see how much of each area is created off the bounce by Juzang himself. At the rim, he creates 56.6% of his own offense; 64.0% in the midrange, and 24.1% from three-point land. Compare this to someone who had a similar “off-ball wing shooter” label in last year’s draft in Trey Murphy: 29.1% self-created shots at the rim; 75.0% in the midrange; and 9.6% from downtown. You can see Juzang does a lot more for himself than he is give credit.

This shows up mostly on film in Juzang operating in pick-and-roll. The majority of Juzang’s offense came in the midrange (43.8% if his offense) where he was able to get space off of picks set up by his teammates. Now calm down all you “I don’t want some guy who feats on midrange jumpshots” people out there. While I understand your reasoning for this stance, there are still quite a few exceptional players out there who are deadly with this shot and Juzang is one of them.

Let me present you with his shot chart to give you an idea just how deadly.

Shot chart for Johnny Juzang’s 2020-21 Season at UCLA
Dom Samangy’s ‘21 NBA Draft shiny app 3.0

Shooting 50% in the midrange is rare. That top of the key shot and going to his right is almost automatic. Even driving straight down the lane to the hoop you see Juzang remains above average in spite of have a ton of attempts in that area.

Second in terms of shots off the bounce for Juzang are his one-two dribble pull-ups from three. And again if you look back at that shot chart he is red hot from the top of the three-point arc. 62% is almost unfathomable and is considerable spacing weapon since someone like Juzang has to be picked up the minute they cross halfcourt. He was also great from the right corner at 44%.

But Juzang’s main selling point is as an off-ball wing shooter. I started with his off the ball game because I do think it is almost entirely glossed over many times, but in the NBA he is going to make his money similar to guys like our guy Wayne Ellington, Desmond Bane, Reggie Bullock, and Gary Trent Jr. running off screens and providing consistent spacing for his teammates.

The best way to really sell just how much his off-ball skills let me present you with his film against Michigan in the NCAA tournament this past March.

Just look at the amount of ground Juzang covers in this game. As a Michigan alum myself, I think we are still seeing Juzang in our nightmares as he scored 28 of UCLA’s 51 points in that defensive slugfest. Pay particular attention to when Juzang is lined up the corners in halfcourt sets. UCLA loved to have him run to the opposite corner while two of his teammates sets screens for him. This wore out the Michigan D late in the game and even forced them to put Franz Wagner on Juzang for a possession or 2. Watch any UCLA game and you will see Juzang in constant motion to get himself open and wear out opposing defenders in the process.

I also picked this game because you can see Juzang utilize his handle some and really take advantage of his size when he was matched up with the 5-foot-11 Mike Smith and 6-foot-1 Eli Brooks. He turns on attack mode with get into the land and utilize his size and reach. I think this game best showcased his abilities both on and off ball that helped UCLA to their title run as and gives an indication of the multiple ways he can utilize his jumpshot based game in the NBA.

What He Needs to Improve

No. 1 for me is he needs to get to the rim more. Only 13.4% of his offense were shots taken at the rim. This percentage screams non-factor and make the gameplan on defense simple for the opposition: stay attached to Juzang. His off-ball skills make this gameplan easy to say and hard to execute, but not getting to the rim more will affect Juzang’s off-the-bounce-game the most. It’s hard to be a threat as even a tertiary ball handler if your defender knows you are not going to drive right at them.

A glance back at his shot chart will show how this did affect Juzang last season. His three-point percentage to the left and right above the break was a bad 32.% on either side. And while I did mention he can use one-two dribble pull-ups, these were the areas on the court I saw him use this move the most. So while he can do it, the numbers indicate that he is not efficient at it yet and I would argue it is because the opposition’s scouting report read, “Does NOT attack the rim. STAY ATTACHED.”

While many out there in NBA Draft Twitter will hit you with the “he’s not an athlete; he can’t defend” label, I would answer back. Show me game tape where Juzang was consistently outmatched on D. I would also retort that UCLA’s coach is Mick Cronin and, to put it simply, if you play for Mick Cronin then you play defense. Coach Cronin preaches defense first, and his teams are always known for having all five guys work to stifle the offense.

That being said, I do understand the “he can’t defend crowd” only in regards of asking Juzang to be a man to man defender on anyone smaller and quick than him. In team defense, he is great funneling guards to Jaime Jaquez and Cody Reily, but if you were asking him to be a starting guard in the NBA covering point guards, then you’re asking to have problems containing dribble penetration.

To me I see Juzang’s defense in similar regards to someone like Cameron Johnson where his size and IQ keep him in the positive on that side of the ball, plus that’s not what a team should be asking him to do as a primary skill.

The thing that I personally think will determine if Juzang can be more than a rotation shooter is his passing. 43 assist to 43 turnovers last year is underwhelming. An assist percentage of 10.6% is reason enough for scouts to be downgrading Juzang as much as they have so far. While you may think that is overreaction, Juzang led UCLA in usage last season with 26.9%. In my opinion, any player with that much of an offensive responsibility needs to have court vision to use their scoring as a way to get their teammates open looks.

How will Juzang fit with the MotorCade?

While it is easy to say Juzang would fit into any NBA offense well because every team needs wing shooters who don’t need the ball in their hands and understand how to play team defense, as we’ve seen this Detroit team struggle on offense, I think a player like Juzang is one of the missing ingredients to making a capable NBA offense.

If you noticed the NBA players I’ve thrown out there for Juzang’s game are Gary Trent Jr., Reggie Bullock, Desmond Bane, and Cameron Johnson. This is because these guys find a way to be a positive contributor using their jump shooting first and foremost, and it does not matter whether they start or come off the bench. Teams need them to space the floor.

Juzang would do that in Detroit. Currently Jonathan Givony of ESPN is the only person I’ve seen mock Juzang, and he has Juzang going 40. Juzang is safely a second-round prospect for now, which is great news for our Pistons as it does not necessitate a trade back into the first. Also, if Juzang is starting his NBA career coming off the bench, the he slots in as a perfect wing complement to Saben Lee. Saben attacks, Johnny shoots. Juzang can also form a bombs away bench with Livers, Olynyk, and Frank Jackson should his three-point shot ever return.

With a team at an all-time low in terms of three-point shooting, they should exhaust every avenue they can to find guys that can consistently space the floor to compliment Cade. I truly believe Juzang has a Wayne Ellington floor and Gary Trent Jr. ceiling that would be smart investment for the Pistons to upgrade their spacing. Personally I would take him at the end of round 1, but would being screaming as loud as I could if he was still there in the second.