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Did BJ Johnson Earn His Spot in the Starting Lineup for the Orange?

The sophomore forward hasn’t established himself as a starting-caliber player just yet.

The short answer?  No.

The long answer?  Unfortunately, no.

After starting his 2014 season with a productive game against Kennesaw State, BJ Johnson was thrust into a starting role when Tyler Roberson went down with a muscle injury.  With a chance to prove his critics wrong, Johnson provided the Orange with a different skill set than Roberson could offer.  But, despite his outside scoring ability, Johnson did not show enough to warrant his spot in the starting lineup upon Roberson’s return.

Johnson, a lefty who can score in a handful of ways, is much thinner than Roberson, despite being only an inch shorter on paper.  His ability to hit the outside shot is something the Orange still desperately needs, and is something that Roberson cannot offer.  But, Johnson’s defensive liability is not worth his offensive potential.  He has often looked lost on the wing, overcommitting to shooters and falling for ball fakes time and time again. While Roberson certainly isn’t perfect on the back of the zone either, he plays to the Orange’s strengths.

In the four games that he has played, Roberson is averaging 6.5 points in just over 20 minutes of playing time.  In the three games that BJ has come off of the bench and played, he averaged just nine points in almost 22 minutes per game.  In the two games he has started, however, he has only scored 12 points in over 30 minutes a game.  Against Cal, the best team the Orange has played, Johnson shot 0-of-8 from the field and was consequently benched in the next game against Iowa.

It’s really a shame for Johnson, who could help round out the Orange’s game plan.  Currently, Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough are not just the primary scoring options for the Orange, they are the only scoring options.  And the more that the team struggles to score from range, the harder it will be for Rak and McCullough to find room in the paint.  Johnson, however, still hasn’t shown enough to warrant his starting over Roberson.

Roberson has fallen into a good spot, however, because the only other player that could potentially take his minutes is Mike Gbinije, who has been ever worse than Johnson.  But, with no depth at point guard, the sixth man has to back up Kaleb Joseph off the bench.  In doing so, he has looked very underwhelming, totaling only seven assists to eight turnovers.

Regardless of who is penciled in, the Orange will struggle on the back line next to Rak and McCullough.  BJ had a great opportunity to seize the job in Roberson’s absence, but his inconsistent and raw play has opened the door for a healthy Roberson again.

Posted:  Jason Weingold

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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