The Indiana Pacers selected Alize Johnson with the 50th pick, adding a player that has been on the NBA radar since a breakout season at Missouri State in 2016-17.
Go back eight years, and Johnson was far from even the most optimistic recruiting radars. He entered high school as a 5’9’’ guard, and was just 6’5’’ when he enrolled at junior college four years ago. But as he continued to grow, Johnson turned into a dominant player in the Missouri Valley.
He was a double-double machine in Springfield (14.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG), and was one of the nation’s best rebounders over his two-year NCAA career. He finished in the top-8 in defensive rebounding rate in both of his college seasons, and pulled down 10 or more defensive rebounds 11 times in 2017-18. He was also a capable playmaker and passer out of the high post, helping set up the Bears’ multitude of perimeter playmakers.
The Pacers are banking that the do-it-all game he flashed at Missouri State translates to the NBA. His coach — Paul Lusk — talked about just that as a selling point at the combine.
“He’s versatile and he’s not dependent upon one particular thing,” said Paul Lusk, Johnson’s coach at Missouri State. “If that one thing’s not working, for a lot of guys, are they valuable? I think he does a multitude of things that makes him a very valuable player.”
Johnson’s measurables, including the all-important wingspan, weren’t ideal, and he had underwhelming workout results at the combine. But his production at Missouri State was undeniable, and if all goes right, could step in as an immediate role player on a win-now team like the Pacers.
To earn a roster spot and get minutes, Johnson will need to show that he’s closer to the three-point shooter he was as a junior (38.8 percent on 103 3PA), than he was as a senior (28.8 percent on 146 3PA). If he’s going to separate himself from players like Ben Moore and Alex Poythress, he’ll need to prove over the summer that he can be a true threat from distance.