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Could Johnson Be Long-Term Answer At Point?

Thursday, April 6, 2006
Conrad Brunner

Q.Is Anthony Johnson an option as starting point guard for the Pacers long-term? In light of his improved individual play this season as a starter and with the inconsistency and injuries to Jamaal Tinsley, would the Pacers consider this going forward? Although not as creative as a passer as Jamaal, A.J. appears to be a better defender, better shooter, and not as turnover prone. The offense seems to flow better when he is at the point. If not, what more does he need to do to prove himself and do you think the Pacers will try and trade for or draft a point guard for next season? (From Neil in Indianapolis)

This isn't just the question of the day. It just might be the question of the year, this season and next. There was a great deal of curiosity and concern about how things would shake out at point guard entering the season. The signing of Sarunas Jasikevicius, the injury problems plaguing Tinsley and the solid performance of Johnson as the fill-in starter created quite a bit of intrigue. Though a full season has passed, I'm not sure we've learned enough to draw conclusions about the present or future of the position.

Jasikevicius has played very well at times and poorly at others. He has to be an extremely effective offensive player to compensate for his defensive deficiencies. Tinsley has missed a huge chunk of the season, again, with injuries, strengthening the case for those who believe him physically incapable of providing the long-term answer. And Johnson has been his usual reliable self, putting together a second straight career year.

The question isn't which of these three has played the best to this point. The question is whether any of the three have the ability to guide this team to the elite level of the NBA. Tinsley has talent but lacks durability and all too often plays with a disinterested demeanor that has a negative impact on the team. Jasikevicius has plenty of fire and playmaking ability but has been a disappointingly erratic shooter and must find a way to fill the holes in his defensive game. Johnson is solid but unspectacular. He doesn't make many mistakes, but neither is he a creator. He's the best defender of the three but isn't a stopper.

As much as I respect what he's done here the past two years, I'd have to be convinced Johnson has the skill set necessary to direct a contending team on a full-time basis, though he could certainly help a team win a ring as a backup. If you could somehow combine Tinsley's creativity, Jasikevicius' fire and Johnson's consistency, you'd have the answer. Separately, however, the questions remain.
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