March 18, 2024 

Film room: Why Flau’jae Johnson is a future lottery pick

She’s one of the most electric players in college basketball

LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson is must-see TV. She had a stellar showing at the SEC Tournament, flashing the upside of a potential All-Star-caliber WNBA guard.

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Johnson hit defenders with slick crossovers, drained difficult shots, drew fouls at the rim, caused havoc on defense and played with infectious energy while doing it all. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the film room to explore why Johnson is on the developmental path to becoming a future lottery pick through her remarkable blend of athleticism and space creation.

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Creation upside

In basketball, the importance of on-ball creation is unmatched, as it requires a unique amalgamation of skills to elevate a player to a special on-ball operator. 

Some players have an elite handle and leverage this as a driver but lack an efficient pull-up jumper (i.e., Brittney Sykes). Other players can make up for an average handle with ridiculous tough-shot-making (i.e., Sabrina Ionescu). An even smaller percentage of players excel at both (i.e., Jewell Loyd and Jackie Young).

The combination of pull-up scoring and ballhandling prowess is the backbone for elite space creation1, an area where Johnson excels. She has a case for the best handle of any 5’10-or-taller player in the collegiate ranks, and her promising foundation as a pull-up shooter makes her upside through the roof.

A data chart on Flau'jae Johnson's statistics from her freshman to sophomore season, which is highlighted by her growth on catch-and-shoot jumpers and pull-up 3s, as well as efficiency out of ball screens and isolation.
The data behind Flau’jae Johnson’s sophomore leap, courtesy of Synergy Sports (Graphic credit: Hunter Cruse | The Next)

As seen in this chart, Johnson has improved as an on-ball operator since her freshman season, raising her catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (+3.3%) and pull-up midrange percentage (+4.7%). She’s also become more efficient in isolation and out of ball screens on higher volume, per Synergy Sports.

Last season, 91.8% of Johnson’s pull-up attempts came out of the midrange. This season, that’s down to 79.2%. If she can continue on this trajectory and stabilize around 55% to 60% on similar efficiency, that’s the difference between a 50-or-55-grade prospect and a 70-grade prospect.2

For reference, in 2023, 62.9% of Kayla McBride’s pull-up jumpers came out of the midrange, 59.4% for DeWanna Bonner, 59% for Rhyne Howard, and 52.1% for Loyd.

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Off-ball scoring value

Johnson balances her on-ball creation with a good feel and timing as an off-ball mover, paired with consistent spot-up shooting.

She will only become more impactful as a cutter once she plays alongside a true high-level passer at the W level. LSU’s Hailey Van Lith is a quality passer from the guard position but can’t make advanced reads by manipulating defenders at the second level to open up passing windows. 

Nonetheless, Johnson converts shots on 78.6% of her cuts and 42% on spot-up jumpers.

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Defensive activity

Not many play with as much passion as Johnson, and that translates to a stellar defensive profile as a prospect. 

According to Her Hoop Stats3, the Savannah, Georgia, native is the only high-major sophomore to post a 3% steal rate and 2.5% block rate in at least 15 minutes per game.

Johnson stands out as one of the most engaged help defenders I’ve evaluated. She utilizes this skill to generate turnovers and ignite scoring opportunities in transition. She is second among SEC players in transition points per game (6.2) and ranks No. 8 among high-major players nationally.

WNBA fans and talent evaluators alike should be excited to continue tracking Johnson’s development, which is highlighted by her dynamic on-ball creation and tenacious defensive prowess. With March Madness on the horizon, catching No. 3 LSU and Johnson is a must for any basketball enjoyer.

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  1. Space creation refers to a player’s ability to create gaps or separation from defenders to open up scoring opportunities. ↩︎
  2. A 50-grade player has a median outcome as an average starter; a 55-grade player is a starting-caliber player on a WNBA contender; a 60-grade player is a plus-starter and occasional WNBA All-Star; and a 70-grade player is a perennial WNBA All-Star. Check out Em Adler’s deep dive on the 20-80 scouting scale. ↩︎
  3. Johnson’s teammate Aneesah Morrow is listed as a sophomore on Her Hoop Stats; however, she is in her third collegiate season. ↩︎

Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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