An Unexpected Contributor

Published: July 1, 2016

Who is Tyler Johnson?

More and more people found themselves asking this question as the undrafted, 4-year college athlete started to earn more and more trust from Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra this season. He earned enough trust from Spoelstra that the coach gave him 8.8 of his 24minutes/game in the 4th quarter, and enough from Riley that he moved Mario Chalmers to create those minutes for him. Chalmers had been with Miami his entire career, 7 and 1/2 seasons, and was a major contributor on championship teams.

There is a surprising amount of good-vibe material written about the 2 year pro, and I encourage you to read about his story. The typical “works harder than anyone gym rat” stuff comes up everywhere, but then you hear stories about how he had 2 teeth chipped in a drill and just kept going, about how Pat Riley told Johnson’s mom to her face that he traded Chalmers because he believes in Tyler. You gotta trust Pat Riley, right?

BBallBreakdown acknowledged how well the guard was playing for the Heat to start this season in this video breakdown:

He was just one of those undersized, late bloomers in college who slipped through the cracks. He was never supposed to make it to the NBA, but Miami felt it on the court when his season was cut short to a shoulder injury. Feel good story aside, as you can see in the video, Johnson does bring enough to the table that the Pels should take a look at him this upcoming free agency.

2015-16 stats:

24mpg, 48.6% FG%, 38.0% 3PT%, 8.7pts, 2.2asts, 3.3rebs

He was a capable scorer from any spot on the court. (including the playoffs):

At the Rim 3-10ft 10-16ft 16ft-3pt line 3pt
FG% 63.4% 40.7% 50% 42% 39.5%


He’s been reliable from distance for years. Over his junior and senior seasons at Fresno he shot over 40% from the 3pt line; he shot 42.6% from deep in 15 D-League appearances in 2014-15; and these last 2 seasons in Miami he’s averaged 37.8% from deep.

He is a little undersized to play the 2 guard in the NBA, but he has worked hard to develop the skills of a combo guard, and his work always seems to pay off. Last season in 32 games for Miami he averaged 2.5 assists/36 minutes, this season in 36 games he is up to 3.5. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that he has worked to be a better passer with his off-hand.

On the other side of the ball he is tenacious, and never gives up on a play. That may sound cliche but we saw this Pelicans team inexcusably “give up” on multiple occasions this season. He was the Heat’s 3rd best player defending ball-handlers on PnR possessions, allowing .76 points per play to opponents.

Being surrounded by tons of veterans on one of the most well-run organizations in the league makes it easier to succeed on both sides of the ball, but I get the feeling that Johnson would have done well on any team that would have given him a chance. How often does it happen that a D-League call up for a team fighting for the playoffs, who is supposed to step in for an injured Hall of Famer (Dwayne Wade), puts up a 26-1-1 and a 24-6-6 stat line within a span of 5 days? Probably not very often.

Johnson is a restricted free agent this summer, and it might take some finagling to pry him away from the Heat as he falls under something called the “Gilbert Arenas Provision.” Because he went undrafted and has been in the league 2 seasons for the same team, the first-year salary that another team offers cannot be greater than the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception. The Heat could resign him with the Early Bird Exception, allowing them to go over the cap to match an offer, but it would likely be their last off-season move as they would look to get their big name players in Wade and possibly Whiteside signed first. The numbers can get a bit confusing, but basically the Pels would have to put together some sort of poison pill contract the Heat wouldn’t want to match. It has been done before with Jeremy Lin and our own Omer Asik.

He wouldn’t be worth the large amounts those two got, but in the event that Miami ends up shelling out this summer, the Pels could be in position to snag this guy from them.


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