OAKLAND, Calif. — When the Heat lost Dwyane Wade this past summer, they lost one of the best shot-blocking guards in NBA history.
But Tyler Johnson is trying to fill that void. The 6-foot-4 guard has recorded at least one block in seven consecutive games entering Tuesday’s matchup against the Warriors.
“I definitely watched how he did it,” Johnson said of Wade after Tuesday morning’s shootaround session at the University of San Francisco. “I didn’t necessarily take it from him. But I took the mindset of being able to block other players.”
That mindset paired with Johnson’s athleticism has turned him into one of the NBA’s top shot-blocking guards this season. Johnson is averaging 0.8 blocks per game, which is the second-most among guards.
The only “guard” ahead of Johnson is Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo — a 6-foot-11 versatile playmaker who is averaging 2.1 blocks per game. Wade is third on the list just behind Johnson with 0.7 blocks per game.
“He’s relentless to the end of the possession,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Johnson. “A lot of players, particularly shot-blockers won’t put themselves out there, because they’re afraid of getting scored on or dunked on or a highlight play against them. If you’re not thinking about any of that and putting yourself our there, not giving in to the competition, you’ll make a lot of plays. You’ll also get scored on. And he doesn’t care about that.”
Johnson said earlier this week the last time he measured his vertical it was “42 or 43” inches. By comparison, Vince Carter also reportedly had a 43-inch vertical.
That leaping ability gives Johnson a shot-blocking edge over most guards. But he says it’s his improved ability to read plays that’s helped him get his block numbers up.
“I got better with the anticipation since I’ve been in the league, but I’ve always been able to go chase people down,” Johnson said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better at blocking shots that aren’t in transition. That’s how I used to get them. If you get a blocked shot it means you’re ahead of the play.”
It’s a skill that brings back memories of Wade.
“The really special thing about Dwyane is he would do it against centers,” Spoelstra said. “And most perimeter players wouldn’t have the guts or courage to go up there and make a play, knowing they could be on SportsCenter. They would bail out and make a half-hearted swipe at the ball and say, ‘I couldn’t get there in time.’ Dwyane and Tyler and J-Rich, they’re not wired that way. If they’re down there and something happens and there’s a play to be made, they go up there and put themselves out there.”