In 2001, the NBA created the NBA Developmental League – NBDL or D-League – to be the NBA’s version of baseball’s minor leagues. At first none of the NBA teams put much credence into the idea, but as years have gone by more and more teams have begun to see the significance it can play — and the Indiana Pacers are one of those teams.
Over the weekend, the Pacers assigned rookie Solomon Hill to their D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. This move allows Hill to continue getting playing time like he was before Danny Granger made his return. But Hill isn’t the only player who could use some D-League time this year.
Orlando Johnson, another player who lost his minutes due to the return of Granger, would also benefit from the 20-plus minutes he would play with the Mad Ants. Johnson played two games for the Mad Ants last season and averaged 38 minutes, 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. While he should have played more in the D-League, the Pacers were without Granger for all but five games last year so Johnson’s services were needed more in the big leagues.
When Granger went down during the preseason it thrust Johnson into a new, but similar role as he instantly became the sixth or seventh man depending on when Luis Scola came in. After having a solid rookie campaign, many believed he would be even better this year, but the sophomore slump kicked in early.
Through 51 games last year, Johnson averaged 12.1 minutes, 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from three-point range and 40 percent overall. Fast forward to this season and Johnson has averaged in 27 games played 11.8 minutes, 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and is shooting 21 percent from three-point range and 34 percent overall. Those are not at all the numbers fans were hoping to see.
The feeling of needing to make a splash to maintain his rotation spot could be a reason for his regression, and not training properly in the offseason could also be a reason. During Summer League play, Johnson didn’t look great, so maybe, just maybe, he is showing his true ability. Either way, additional D-League time this year would benefit Johnson and keep him game ready in case his number gets called again this year.