Scouting Report: Johnny Juzang
Rising sophomore transfer guard/forward Johnny Juzang got an immediate eligibility transfer waiver Wednesday. Juzang averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at Kentucky as a freshman. (Courtesy of Michael Clubb/Kentucky Kernel Staf)
By Sam Connon
May 27, 2020 11:14 p.m.
Johnny Juzang should have been a senior at Harvard-Westlake School last season, just 8 miles away from Pauley Pavilion.
Instead, he traveled across the country to suit up in blue and white in Rupp Arena and get a taste of the college game a little early.
The rising sophomore guard/forward transferred to UCLA men’s basketball April 9 after averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in 28 appearances at Kentucky last season. He shot 37.7% from the field and scored in double-digits twice as a freshman.
Juzang’s numbers may not have ranked near the top of the SEC leaderboards – or his team’s, for that matter – but his freshman stats don’t diminish his experience as a scoring threat in high school.
The once four-star recruit averaged 19.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his high school career while shooting 44% from the field, 35% from deep and 80% from the line. Despite his limited minutes at Kentucky, 247Sports ranked him as the No. 2 transfer in the country April 9.
Juzang had his immediate eligibility transfer waiver approved Wednesday, meaning he’ll officially have the chance to don blue and gold for the Bruins next season.
With guard Chris Smith still sitting in the 2020 NBA Draft pool, coach Mick Cronin’s wing rotation could get a makeover ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Juzang figures to be a key piece of Cronin’s lineup – with or without Smith on the roster next year – because of his shooting ability, rebounding IQ and versatility on both sides of the ball.
Juzang has had one defining tool since his high school days – his 3-point shot.
The wing’s high release is fundamentally sound, and he is often unfazed by closing out defenders. Juzang’s form did not change in any noticeable way when he got to college, and his contested shots are nearly identical to his uncontested attempts.
Juzang thrives in catch-and-shoot situations, both from the corner and the top of the key. He has limited highlights at Kentucky of shooting off-the-dribble and spot-up jumpers from deep, but he has a good pull-up midrange game with a smooth one-dribble gather.
Shooting 32.6% from deep is not typically the mark of a great shooter, but Juzang did just that during his freshman year at Kentucky. He had limited minutes and a rigidly defined role last season, as he was the only Wildcat to attempt more 3s than 2s – which likely hindered his production early on.
The stats don’t show his consistent and smooth release, however, and 43 3-point attempts is too small of a sample size to judge him on. Juzang took 441 triples in high school and hit 154 of them – nothing groundbreaking by any means, but a solid mark for a teenage volume shooter.
One of the best statistical baselines to measure jump-shooting ability is free throw percentage, and Juzang shot an 83.3% clip from the charity stripe at Kentucky. His 12 attempts on the season is a small sample size as well – indicating a heavy reliance on his jumper – but he did post an identical 83.3% mark across his final two years at Harvard-Westlake.
Juzang is not as reliant on his 3-point shot as the Bruins’ other sharpshooters on the roster – rising sophomore guard/forward Jake Kyman and rising junior guard David Singleton – but the trio will giving Cronin flexibility and the ability to space the floor with multiple different lineups.
Kyman and Singleton combined to take 74.8% of their field goal attempts from 3-point range, while Juzang took 55.8% of his shots from deep. Kyman proved to be a reliable corner specialist this season, while more of Singleton’s attempts came from up top.
Juzang brings the best of both to the table, and while he isn’t as prolific a shooter as his two new teammates, he gives Cronin another 3-point weapon that can move all over the floor.
Juzang’s 6-foot-6 frame doesn’t set him apart from the crowd below the basket, but he has the vision and agility to establish himself as a plus-rebounder at his position.
Listed at 214 pounds, Juzang has both the height and weight advantage over most collegiate shooting guards, and he has the speed and instincts to gather long rebounds better than most as well. His reliance on using his downhill speed and vision to read the boards allows him to rack up second-chance points at a high rate.
Juzang averaged 1.9 rebounds per game last season, roughly a quarter of which came on the offensive boards. His 6.3 rebounds per 40 minutes and 9.2 rebounds per 100 possessions in 2019-2020 would rank fifth among returning Bruins, should Smith stay in the NBA Draft.
After averaging 9.1 rebounds per game in his sophomore and junior seasons of high school, Juzang continued to prove he could read the ball well in Lexington, Kentucky, both in fast-break and half-court scenarios. Whether it was an air ball, hit front rim or an accidental off-the-backboard pass, Juzang was there to clean it up on multiple occasions last season.
Cronin’s board-crashing tendencies could help Juzang further maximize his potential as a rebounder.
UCLA ranked second in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds and first in defensive rebounds against during conference play. Smith, rising junior guard Jules Bernard and rising sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. – who has a nearly identical 6-foot-6, 215-pound build to Juzang – combined to post 30 games with six or more rebounds last season.
Juzang won’t be the strongest rebounder on the team – or even the best rebounding wing – but his ability to use his speed and size to crash the boards makes him a perfect fit for Cronin’s system.
Juzang has yet to establish himself as a lockdown defender, but his long arms and switching ability give him the potential to approach that role later in his career.
At 6-foot-6, Juzang already has good size for the shooting guard position. He can physically outmatch most ball-handlers and shooters, and his plus-wingspan will make it difficult for opposing players to shoot over.
Juzang isn’t just a big body, however, as he still has the speed of a guard to help him round out his defensive game.
The Los Angeles native has good footwork for an 18-year-old, and he is athletic enough to stay in front of driving ball-handlers, something Cronin’s team struggled with in the first half of the season. Most of his athleticism is lateral as opposed to vertical, meaning he doesn’t project to be a high-flying shot-blocker anytime soon.
Juzang’s 0.2 steals and 0.1 blocks per game – which translate to 0.6 and 0.2 per 40 minutes, respectively – suggest his production is not close to approaching his potential on the defensive end just yet. With a defensive mind like Cronin in his ear, that could change sooner rather than later.
Player comparisons: Jordan Adams, Trevor Ariza
Juzang has a long and mature build not often seen in teenage wings, and he has the shooting and potential to go along with it.
Juzang is one inch taller than Jordan Adams was when he played at UCLA from 2012-2014. Both play at similar weights, but their similarities as scorers stand out as well. Adams also shot sub-33% from deep his freshman year, but he shot 35.6% during his sophomore year and 38.7% in his NBA and G League career.
Adams, too, had plus-size for a college shooting guard, and his score-first mentality led to him leading the Bruins in scoring with 17.4 points per game as a sophomore. Juzang likely won’t play as important of a role to the offense in his first year at UCLA, but he has the potential to be a high-teens scorer and grab five-plus rebounds per game much like Adams did in Westwood.
If Juzang has an NBA ceiling like 247Sports national recruiting expert Josh Gershon wrote in 2018, his game could grow to resemble another former Bruin, Trevor Ariza.
The two both have a consistent, smooth jumper with a high release and thrive on catch-and-shoots, while also maintaining the versatility to get the job done on the other end of the floor. Ariza is two inches taller than Juzang, but the latter’s wingspan and muscle help him make up the difference.
Ariza shot just 23.7% from long range in his lone season at UCLA and 31.7% across the first eight seasons of his NBA career, but he has become a true 3-and-D threat in recent seasons, shooting 36.2% from 3 over his last eight seasons.
Juzang has been a hot commodity for years, and he may start to come into his own in 2020-2021. Cronin is capable of fine-tuning Juzang’s defensive techniques and giving him the chance to regularly shoot jumpers within the flow of the offense.
Even if Smith rejoins the team in the fall, Juzang could become one of the best sixth men in the Pac-12 next season.
If Smith doesn’t come back to college, however, Juzang could get the chance to be a key contributor in the starting lineup.