Hungry Jack's NBL
Free Agency Analysis: Orlando Johnson to Brisbane Bullets
NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria continues his look at each and every signing, breaking down what it all means ahead of #NBL21.
Signed by: Brisbane Bullets
The deal: One year
2019-20 team: Avtodor Saratov (Russia)
2019-20 stats (per game): 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 41.9 FG%, 31.2 3P%, 76.5 FT%
Projected role: Starting small forward.
Quote: “I’m really excited. They (Brisbane) said we need a guy who will be able to shoulder a heavy load and be one of the main guys… I told them how ready I was and how much I’ve been working” – Orlando Johnson
My take: This is a really intriguing signing because, at his best, Johnson has the talent to be a real force in this league.
A 6’5 wing with a dynamic offensive game, Johnson was a second-round draft pick out of college and began his career on a Pacers team that was one win away from an NBA Finals appearance.
Since then he’s had an interesting journey, including brief stints with other NBA teams, some time in the EuroLeague and a couple of years with some bloke named Bryce Cotton at the Austin Spurs.
He has also played in Spain, the Philippines, China, Lebanon, Bosnia and Taiwan so, yeah, he’s been moving around a little.
(Interestingly, Johnson teamed up with a few familiar NBL names for Eberlein Drive in The Basketball Tournament last year, including former Bullet Taylor Braun, 2017 MVP Jerome Randle and current Adelaide import Donald Sloan.)
So… what is his thing? To put it simply: Johnson’s a bucket-getter. He’s a guy who likes to create off the bounce, takes and makes tough shots and has enough explosiveness and strength to finish around the rim.
That’s good because that’s precisely the kind of guy the Bullets needed to add. Their local talent is nice but they were lacking that go-to scoring option who is comfortable being ‘The Man’ and shouldering a scoring load.
The question surrounding Johnson will be: is he still that guy? A few years ago he was absolutely balling but that momentum was lost somewhat when some niggling knee issues limited his production and he started to fall off the map.
The good news is that the 31-year-old was having a bounce-back campaign last year in Russia so there’s every chance he’ll come in and get buckets for the Bullets.
He’ll need to… because let’s be honest: Johnson – and whoever they bring in to replace Magnay – will need to be special if Brisbane are going to be a playoff team in NBL21.