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Alize Johnson’s gritty productivity earned him another year to develop

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Indiana’s 2018 second-round draft pick will get another chance to prove himself next season.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 5 Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers have guaranteed the $1.4 million contract of high-motor forward Alize Johnson for the 2019-20 season, reports J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.

Johnson, who amassed 23 double-doubles in 31 games with the Mad Ants last season, showcased his ability to do a little bit of everything last week in Las Vegas, averaging 16.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals in 29 minutes per game for the Summer Pacers. With Aaron Holiday, Edmond Sumner, Brian Bowen, and Goga Bitadze all missing one or more games, Johnson was the only of Indiana’s rostered players to appear in the full-slate of competition, suggesting perhaps that further evaluation was needed for the front office to come down firmly on the side of retaining the durable Missouri State product.

To that point, the hard-nosed 23-year-old delivered a quintessential Alize Johnson-game in Friday’s consolation contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 25 points on 58 percent shooting to go with 13 rebounds, threes assists, and two steals. In addition to cobbling together, yet another, double-double, the rising sophomore appeared more comfortable handling in space and finishing with his off-hand than he had all week.

Overall, Johnson’s footwork still wants for refinement when he attacks through contact in transition, where he has a tendency to get bumped off his finishing angle, and it’s clear that he’s still figuring out where to be on both ends of floor and could use a few extra counter moves; however, his nose for the ball is undeniable, even to the extent of sometimes overshadowing the areas of his game that lack in polish. Case in point: As a second-round draft pick with limited experience in Indiana’s regular season finale, Johnson was a team-high +14 in 25 minutes of action, though his entire role in the offense essentially boiled down to hanging out in the dunker’s spot and gobbling up rebounds.

Minutes aren’t likely to come easy with Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren, and T.J. Leaf all ahead of him in the rotation at the four spot, but another year of splitting time between Fort Wayne and Indy will at least afford Johnson the continued opportunity to pair improved know-how and skill to his high-motor while providing economical depth in the process.

Since Indiana’s brass simply refrained from waiving Alize, the team’s standard roster continues to stand at 13, two spots shy of the league maximum.

With the last bit of summer housekeeping now taken care of (pending additional signings), next up on the docket for the Pacers in terms of roster management is negotiating on a possible rookie extension with Sabonis and arriving at a decision on the fourth-year team option for Leaf.