When Indiana Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel realized Gerald Green wasn’t going to find his outside shooting stroke anytime soon, he turned to rookie Orlando Johnson to fill the void. Ever since then, Johnson has provided what Green hasn’t and that was even more evident Friday night as the Pacers trounced the Detroit Pistons, 114-82.
Johnson, a 23-year-old rookie out of UC Santa Barbara, was perfect from the field in his 23 minutes against the Pistons, hitting all five of his shots from the floor including three 3s. His 14 points were a career high. Johnson began receiving consistent playing time in mid-January and has been money from behind the arc, as he’s connecting on 50.8 percent of his three-point shots since Jan. 13.
Johnson is serviceable in other areas as well. He possesses a powerful build at 6-foot-5 with a good handle for a shooting guard. While he doesn’t have the quickest feet, Johnson’s very long arms allow him to make up the ground he loses to quicker players and he has fit well into the league’s toughest defense.
It will be interesting to see if Vogel attempts to find minutes for him once Danny Granger returns from injury, as that will force Lance Stephenson from the starting lineup into Johnson’s current role. Will Vogel choose to go smaller with Stephenson and Johnson at the 2 and 3?
Johnson has certainly proved he can be a viable option to this point in the season. While his recent stretch of plus-50 percent shooting from the three will more than likely regress (ask the New York Knicks about that), he did shoot over 40 percent during his final two years in college.
No matter what happens to Johnson’s playing time during the final months of the season, he and the Pacers have proven once again that those second-round picks made in June actually do mean something.
Brandon Curry is an NBA columnist for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry