Here's What I'm Thinking...A Quick Thought On Brandon Johns Jr.
I personally think that sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. is one of Michigan's most important players moving forward for the rest of this year, and here's why.
Johns has a significant role on this year's Michigan team. He has started 10 games this season while Isaiah Livers has dealt with a couple of nagging injuries. He has been beyond important and will continue to be because of what he represents, which is a chance when Livers is out. He's averaging just 6.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game but his role on this year's squad is immeasurable, in my opinion.
I do realize that last night's game flies in the face of my opinion a bit. Somehow Michigan was able to hand Rutgers its first home loss of the season last night without Livers and with a nonexistent Johns in the starting lineup. I'm not trying to be too harsh on Johns, but a one-point, three-rebound performance in one of the year's biggest road games is unacceptable. Johns was in foul trouble, which certainly contributed to his poor stat line, but he wasn't effective while on the floor. He only shot the ball twice, both from distance, and missed both of them. He didn't record an offensive rebound, which he's usually good for, and didn't have a defensive statistic either (block or steal), which he usually does. Again, I don't want this to seem like piling on, but with no Livers and that kind of production from Johns, Michigan is lucky to have won the game.
Moving forward, Johns needs to be more consistent and a much bigger part of U-M's offensive and defensive efforts. Livers may very well return on Saturday against Purdue, but what if the ankle injury lingers? What if the groin issues return? He seems to be a bit snakebitten this year, which means Johns is Michigan's most important insurance policy right now.
If Livers eventually returns and doesn't miss anymore time, this is all a moot point. But if he continues to miss action, Johns is the catalyst to Michigan's success.
With five regular season games, a Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament remaining, Livers is needed — big time. If he's out for any of those, Johns suddenly becomes a huge part of opponent scouting reports. Michigan may survive and advance or lose and go home based on how Johns plays. Sure, guys like Zavier Simpson, Eli Brooks, Jon Teske and Franz Wagner will all have a say in those outcomes as well, I just see Johns being massively critical to U-M's style of play.
Over the last five games, Johns is 6-of-10 from three-point land. That is extremely encouraging considering that's what people thought would be missed most with Livers out.
On defense, Johns can physically do anything Livers can. At 6-8, 235 pounds, he's actually a touch bigger than Livers and probably more athletic in terms of his running and jumping ability. Where he'll really need to step up is as a communicator and being more alert. There have been some instances of him falling asleep on defense at times, which simply doesn't happen with Livers.
Obviously when tourney time starts, everyone is important. I just see Johns, a non-starter, being as important as some of the more obvious characters.
What have you seen out of Brandon Johns this year? How important is he moving forward? Comment below!!!