Addition Through Subtraction: How Tyler Johnson Outmatched Chalmers’ Production
Let’s all take a moment before we begin to say our goodbyes to Mario Chalmers, the greatest player in Heat franchise history, according to Mario’s ego.
It’s not surprising that Chalmers was traded. In fact, it was guaranteed to happen at some point during the season. However, I was a little surprised when I heard that he had been traded only seven games into the season.
I figured Pat “Don” Riley would keep him around till the trade deadline in order to build up his value and to ease the rookies into their NBA careers. But instead, a series of very fortunate events happened to expedite the inevitable.
• Chalmers started the season playing some of the best basketball of his life, which really bolstered his trade value.
• And finally, the focus of this article: Second-round pick Josh Richardson and Tyler “Bumpy” Johnson.
Primary motivation on trading Chalmers wasn’t money or cap. Was Tyler Johnson playing well and taking his job.
— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) November 10, 2015
Let’s begin with Richardson, the 40th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, mostly because we haven’t seen him play many NBA minutes.
In an interview after the draft, Pat Riley wasted no time declaring the Heat had gotten two steals when stating Miami had a first round grade on the Tennessee product.
His final year with the Volunteers, Richardson averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.5 blocks while shooting .461/.359/.798. He played well enough his senior year to make First Team All-SEC and the SEC All-Defensive Team.
The Heat obviously saw the potential to groom him into a prototypical 3-and-D player in today’s NBA, which he showcased throughout this year’s Summer League.
During 10 games of Summer League action between Orlando and Las Vegas, he averaged 12 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks in 26 minutes on .388/.380/.833 shooting splits.
Riley, when speaking about Richardson, noted over and over how enamored they were with his defensive mentality, and you can see some of those early returns in his first NBA minutes.
In his first NBA start last Thursday night — replacing Dwyane Wade in the lineup due to a family emergency — he showed the skills Riley saw leading up to the draft. Richardson played 20 energy-filled minutes, shooting 2-for-3 from beyond the arc and held his defensive responsibility to 3-for-7 shooting from the field.
Now let’s move on to by far the biggest reason why Chalmers was traded — the emergence of second-year guard Tyler Johnson. Johnson went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft coming out of Fresno State but was invited to join the Heat’s Summer League team shortly following the draft.
He was an unknown, but quickly caught the attention of fans and coaches with his high-rising dunks and shooting display to get a training camp invite. While Johnson didn’t make the final 15-man roster, he cleared waivers and ended up joining the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami’s D-League affiliate.
It only took 15 games into his D-League career for Johnson to show he didn’t belong there. He led the Skyforce with 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1 steal in 34.4 minutes while shooting .488/.435/.808.
He was destined for more.
The Heat, plagued by injuries, expedited his return to the NBA. He signed a 10-day contract on January 12, 2015, and after playing through two 10-day contracts, the Heat saw his potential was worth exploring and signed him to a 2-year, $1.45 million deal through the end of the 2015-16 season.
Bumpy’s athleticism is exciting and is easily the first thing that jumps off the screen while watching him play ever since he entered the league. It really defines a lot of what makes him great on both ends of the floor.
Obviously, the NBA is filled with athletic players and plenty of them don’t turn out to be anything special. But what sets Johnson apart is that his game is incredibly well-rounded for a 23-year old. Measuring in at 6’4″ combined with his rare athleticism, he has the size and length to be a disruptive force on the defensive end.
And combine that with his legit ball-handling abilities and his ability to score from anywhere on the court, and you have the makings of a true difference maker.
Last season, Johnson flew under the radar to casual basketball fans, as he was playing on a very flawed Heat team ravaged by injuries. Johnson spent the majority of his minutes on the court with the likes of James Ennis, Michael Beasley, Chalmers and Henry Walker.
This season, Tyler is spending the majority of his minutes playing with the likes of Winslow, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Hassan Whiteside — which is a dramatic difference in talent.
Couple that with Johnson’s continued growth as a player and you’re seeing a young man that is flourishing into one of the most promising young players in the league.
In Thursday’s game against the Utah Jazz, with Wade out and Dragic continuing to struggle, you saw Bumpy take over the game on both sides of the court and prove to be a difference maker the Heat needed against a young, quality team. Showing incredible confidence, he hit a key jump shot in the final minute to help seal a hard fought victory.
What we saw was something that we couldn’t have fathomed 10 months ago. Tyler Johnson has all the tools — both athleticism and basketball savviness — to be the long-term replacement for the franchise’s greatest player.