James Johnson confident he’ll turn around early offensive struggles

Updated at 1:40 pm

James Johnson drives past Nicolas Batum using a screen from Jason Thompson. (Photo: Steven Chea)

If anything could’ve been deemed a silver lining for the Sacramento Kings in last night’s 17-point blowout defeat  to the Portland Trail Blazers, it had to be James Johnson‘s offense.  The 25-year-old forward shot 7-for-13, good for 53.8 percent from the field and led the team in scoring Tuesday night.  His 16-point performance was his first double-figure scoring output of the season.

But overall this year, Johnson has struggled on offense.  He’s looked out of sorts when the Kings have had possession, often times disrupting the flow by being in the wrong spots on the floor.  His advanced shooting numbers are currently also at career lows.  Through eight games, the starting small forward has effective field goal and true shooting percentages of 33.9 and 38.6 percent, respectively.

Johnson’s offensive woes can be traced to his inability to score from the perimeter.  According to NBA.com’s stats tool, Johnson has attempted 18 shots of the mid-range variety, but connected on just three of them through the Kings’ first eight contests.  He’s also made zero of his seven 3-point attempts to start the season.

Despite his early perimeter struggles, the Kings small forward believes he’s bound to turn things around eventually.  Johnson says he’s always working to improve and is usually found after each practice hoisting jumpers with an assistant coach and starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.  But shooting confidently in a live NBA competition versus a non-game environment are two completely different animals.

“It’s not like I can’t shoot them,” Johnson told Cowbell Kingdom of his jump shot following last night’s game.  “I work on my game every day, but getting volume shots up to find a rhythm to make shots is another thing and I don’t think I’m getting that.  But we have scorers on this team, we have a big man who could be an All-Star one day and I know what my role is on this team is I guess.”

Last week, Kings head coach Keith Smart attributed part of Johnson’s offensive struggles to growing familiarity with new teammates.  But at this point in the regular season, the Kings small forward isn’t using that as an excuse, citing that he had the entire preseason to get comfortable with his new surroundings.  Right now, Johnson is holding himself accountable for his slow start and believes it’s just a matter of time before he finds his offensive rhythm.

“Once I bring that jump shot – mid-range jump shot, three-point jump shot – that I know I can make, it’ll open the floor more,” he said.  “I think that people are falling back on me a little bit more, expecting me not to make a jump shot or not to even take the jump shot.  So, I feel like (just) keep working, get a game rhythm and then everything else will take care of itself – spacing on the floor, everything.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.