The San Antonio Spurs are continuing to tweak their roster just one month into the season. On Tuesday morning, the team announced the signing of forward Alize Johnson to the NBA squad along, coinciding with the release of forward Jordan Hall. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the contract is a one-year deal.
The Spurs are extremely familiar with Johnson as he spent the preseason with San Antonio before the organization signed him to their G League affiliate Austin Spurs after he didn’t make the 15-man roster. For Hall, this is the second time that San Antonio has cut him this fall after he previously saw his two-way contract spot taken and given to forward Charles Bassey before the season started. Hall was signed to a non-guaranteed contract just weeks later, filling the void on the bench left by the release of Josh Primo.
Alize Johnson’s Opportunity is Exactly Why the G League Exists
Austin’s loss of Johnson is San Antonio’s gain, and a highlight of why the NBA values the G League. Much like a minor league baseball program with less flexibility, the league gives teams with affiliates the opportunity to scout players more closely. It is a process that San Antonio has greatly benefitted from over the years, especially of late. Just a few years back, Keita Bates-Diop joined the Spurs via a two-way opportunity in Austin, and the majority of their draft picks over the last decade have spent some time with the development program. Even assistant coach Matt Nielsen earned his spot on the bench alongside head coach Gregg Popovich through his coaching experience in the state’s capital.
Though Austin (4-5) has struggled in the 2022 Showcase Cup qualifying schedule, Johnson has been outstanding. The 6’7” forward is averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists, and hitting 40 percent from three-point range this season. He has scored 25+ points in four of Austin’s six games this season, fitting perfectly in place of Bassey who hasn’t played with the G League squad since the second game. Earning a shot with San Antonio, Johnson becomes Austin’s 50th NBA call-up according to the team’s announcement of the transaction. That coincidentally syncs well with the San Antonio Spurs celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
Where Does Alize Johnson Fit in San Antonio?
As great as the signing is for Johnson, it does little benefit to both Austin and San Antonio if he doesn’t see the floor. He replaces Hall who really only saw opportunities to take the floor late in games that were already decided. Even as the NBA Spurs struggled with injuries to forwards Zach Collins and Keldon Johnson, Hall averaged just three points in nine minutes per game. His best performance of the season was against the Sacramento Kings where he recorded five points and five rebounds in 16 minutes on the floor.
What the call-up looks like for Alize Johnson is anyone’s guess. As mentioned before, the Spurs have dealt with their share of injuries this season, so the team could be looking for him to be a spark as they give players some much-needed rest and recovery. Of course, the way Johnson had been playing in the G League, he was likely going to be a candidate for other teams to try on a 10-day contract in January when the window for such deals opens back up.
By signing him to a deal now, the Spurs don’t have to worry about losing his promising talent. The contract could also be part of a bigger-picture move to assimilate Johnson into the lineup as they may elect to sit Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson, or Jakob Poeltl who have been drawing trade interest this season. Whatever the reason, San Antonio now has another young talent with potential thanks to their G League affiliate.