Potential lottery pick and now former Duke freshman, Jalen Johnson has decided to opt out of the remaining of the season in preparation for the upcoming NBA draft.
Johnson released a statement stating, ” My family, coach and I have made the decision that I should not play the remainder of this season so I can be 100 percent healthy in preparation for the NBA draft”.
Duke also released a statement supporting Jalen’s decision, as well as wishing him well with his future endeavors.
What does this mean for Duke going forward? Watching Duke over the last several games, it’s unimaginable to picture a team being better without a lottery pick on the floor, but this Blue Devil squad seemed more cohesive without Johnson. Rumors of Jalen being displeased with his minutes, specifically playing just 8 minutes in Duke’s route of N.C. State Saturday evening, was the last straw for Johnson and his camp.
Visually watching him over the course of this season, he showed flashes of having the “it” factor, but mentally seemed to already be in the NBA. There is a pattern here. If you followed Jalen throughout the high school basketball/ AAU circuit you may notice some parallels – switching from team to team, which is a common theme on the high school circuit in order to play with the best players.
Jalen’s high school career included being suspended from his high school basketball team, transferring to powerhouse IMG Academy, ultimately withdrawing for personal reasons and enrolling at Duke early after not being nominated for the McDonald’s All-American game. Players must compete in at least 50 percent of their games to be nominated for the McDonald’s All-American game. Duke, nor his previous high schools, would comment on the exact reason Johnson withdrew from those institutions.
Politically correct or not, the training for the NBA draft narrative seems to be a smokescreen for the real issue here. If Duke was top-10 in the country and not struggling, this news would have never broken. The notion here is that Jalen quit on his brothers and the brotherhood. Yes, he wants to collect his coins and rightfully so. Struggling with getting playing time and often looking like a deer in the headlights on defense are the real issues for the decrease in action.
Without a doubt he wants to protect his future and his camp agreed with him opting out, but would they have this same attitude if Duke was better this year? We know the answer to that question.
Will NBA GM’s and front offices have cautions and red flags about this decision? Absolutely. Is Jalen ready for the hustle and duration of a NBA season when he’s potentially playing for a franchise thats struggling? Will he up and quit when things are not going his way?
I would never talk down on a kid, because at the end of the day he’s still a kid making grown up decisions about his future. Nevertheless, however you want to slice and dice it, Jalen’s ego and feelings were not groped the way he felt they should have been a 5-star rated recruit. That prompted him to quit on Duke. For the Blue Devils, it’s next man up mentality.