After an impressive sophomore debut season with Marquette where he averaged 13.0 points per game, Darius Johnson-Odom
saw a slight uptick as a junior, scoring 15.8 points per game even though his minutes didn't increase. Johnson-Odom made some slight strides in some areas, but also fell off in others, and how he responds in his senior year will have a significant impact on his stock.
Johnson-Odom's biggest selling point in his first year on campus was his deadeye shooting ability from behind the arc, but his percentages regressed severely last season, down from 47.4% to 36.4% from three-point range despite the fact that he didn't attempt too many more shots from distance. Given the small sample size in college seasons, combined with Johnson-Odom's lackluster free-throw shooting (70.8% last year), there is a decent chance Johnson-Odom's lights out shooting as a sophomore was a fluke, and is something evaluators will really key on this season.
Looking on the positive side, Johnson-Odom still possesses all of the attributes that allowed him to succeed as a sophomore. He has excellent ability to create separation through his advanced ball-handling and quickness along with the ability to knock down shots both spotting up and pulling up, having good shooting mechanics and clear cut NBA three-point range.
His success pulling up off the dribble took a bigger hit last year than did his spot-up shooting, as he still scored an impressive 1.2 points per shot on catch-and-shoot opportunities according to Synergy. Becoming more selective and more focused on quality attempts in off-the-dribble situations could improve his overall efficiency. In projecting him to the NBA where he'd likely play a more off-the-ball role, that problem may in part solve itself.
While Johnson-Odom's shooting ability took a step back as a junior, he did make some slight improvements to his ability to score inside the arc, upping his two-point FG% from 43.9% to 48.4% and increasing his free-throw attempts per game from 2.8 to 4.6 per game. Johnson-Odom has grown more comfortable throwing his broad-shouldered, well-built frame into contact in the lane as he's spent more time in the NCAA, and is also doing a slightly better job using his creativity to finish around the rim.
Despite Johnson-Odom's strides, his 0.99 points per shot on attempts around the basket in the halfcourt according to Synergy is still pretty poor, and may always be somewhat of an issue in the halfcourt given his diminutive size. That said, with his high levels of speed and bounciness, he may actually benefit in this area from the more spaced out NBA despite the higher quality defenders he'd face.
Johnson-Odom's excellent speed and highly refined and advanced ball-handling abilities are likewise skills better suited for the NBA style of play, and he possesses the strong feel and decision-making abilities to likely translate them to the next level. While his finishing ability in the lane is still developing, he has no problem consistently breaking down his man against collegiate competition, showing a great first step, rangy moves, and very strong change of direction ability with the ball.
In terms of his point guard skills, Johnson-Odom remains predominantly the same player he was as a sophomore, having a solid feel and good ability in the passing area, but still being clearly a shoot-first player and not one to consistently run any kind of team offense.
Johnson-Odom similarly remains mostly the same player on the defensive end, where his aggressive style, strong fundamentals, and excellent physical tools are all good points in his favor, but questions still remain about his size, something that shows up most occasionally in his ability to fight around screens.
Looking forward, Johnson-Odom has an intriguing set of abilities along with an aggressive mentality on both sides of the floor, but as an undersized pure shooting guard, rediscovering the deadeye shooting ability he lost as a junior will be very important for his stock. With teammate Jimmy Butler
graduated and moving onto the pros this year, Johnson-Odom will likely see an even more expanded offensive role, and will have NBA decision-makers watching him all season long.