Tyler Johnson checked in against the Suns midway through the first quarter, his first game action in over a week. By the time the game was over, the Miami Heat rookie guard had put up a career-high 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the Heat's 115-98 victory.
If you're wondering who this mystery man is, you're not alone. So, who is Tyler Johnson?
Fresno State sharpshooter
Johnson's NBA career "began" with the Heat at Orlando Summer League after going undrafted out of Fresno State. His college career wasn't all that notable until his senior season, when he averaged 15.9 points while shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range to earn All-Mountain West Second Team honors. That three-point shooting mark ranks as the sixth-best in Fresno State history.
Summer League stud
Johnson played in both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer League with the Heat, averaging 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 54.8 percent overall and 46.7 percent from three. That strong play got him a non-guaranteed deal with Miami in August and he scored 17 points in his lone preseason appearance. However, he was waived just before the start of the regular season.
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Several days after being cut, Johnson was acquired by the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat's D-League affiliate. The guard was one of Sioux Falls' most prolific scorers earlier in the season, averaging 24 points over a seven-game stretch from Dec. 18-Jan. 4. Just over a week later, he signed a 10-day contract with Miami.
Johnson made his NBA debut on Jan. 14 against the Golden State Warriors, scoring two points in just under two minutes of a blowout loss. He didn't play in the next three games and he wasn't retained after his first 10-day contract expired, which meant another trip to Sioux Falls. However, he returned to the Heat on a second 10-day contract shortly after returning to the D-League.
Johnson's outburst against the Suns wasn't the first time he scored in double figures this season. In his third appearance with the Heat on Feb. 1 against the Boston Celtics, he had 13 points in 27 minutes. On Feb. 6, the 6'3 guard had 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting against the San Antonio Spurs.
While some of his success came in garbage time, Johnson showed enough promise that Miami signed him for the remainder of this season, even giving him a non-guaranteed contract for next season. He has since had two more double-digit scoring games, a 14-point effort on on Feb. 20 against the New York Knicks and the big performance against Phoenix.
Can Johnson help get Heat in playoffs?
Miami is currently battling for a playoff spot, barely holding onto the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a 26-33 record. The Brooklyn Nets are just a half-game back in the eighth spot and four other teams are within three games.
The Heat need all the scoring help they can get with Chris Bosh out for the rest of the season, so Johnson's outburst against the Suns was very welcome. Can Miami catch lighting in a bottle twice this season after the shocking rise of Hassan Whiteside? Or, will Johnson just be a flash in the pan?
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