In the summer of 2016, combo guard Tyler Johnson accepted a four-year, $50 million offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets.
However, since he was a restricted free agent, the Miami Heat matched the contract and retained him.
But, since signing the lucrative deal, Johnson hasn’t performed at an elite level by any means. In 2016-2017, he averaged 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 29.8 minutes over 73 games as the team’s sixth man.
Last season, he managed 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.5 minutes per contest over 72 games (39 starts).
As a result of his underwhelming play compared to his lucrative salary, Johnson has been the subject of trade rumors and constant critiques by Heat fans. He recently spoke with Shandel Richardson of The Sun-Sentinel and admitted that he needs to improve.
“I had some ups and downs last year,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have a terrible season, but I didn’t have the season that I wanted to have and the coaches expected me to have. I’m looking forward to getting back on the right track and not even proving to anybody anything, but just showing myself that I know where I’m supposed to be at as a basketball player.”
Johnson revealed that he didn’t feel as much pressure last season as he did in 2016-2017, which was the first season under his $50 million deal.
“The beautiful thing is that there’s a huge cap hit this year, but people have been saying that for the last two years, ‘Oh, he’s got to do this or he’s got to do that,’” Johnson noted. “My first year was probably the year I had the most pressure. I don’t even like to use that word because pressure is made up in your head. It’s whatever you make it to be. That first year was probably the year I wanted to come out the most. It was like, ‘Look, I’m worth 50 million dollars.’ I had a good season that year, but obviously I had a little bit of a drop off last year.”
Interestingly, Johnson revealed that he returned too soon from some of his injuries last season. According to Richardson, he played through a sprained ankle for a period of time. He also fought through a thumb injury in the playoffs that he then underwent surgery on after the Heat were eliminated.
“My problem is I don’t know when to take my foot off the gas,” Johnson revealed. “I always want to just grind through it and be there for my team. In the long run, I think sometimes I hurt myself by trying to push through some of the injuries that I was playing with and I would have little slumps that I was going through.”
Therefore, it seems like Johnson might take a different approach this season.
Although Johnson could absolutely play a substantial role in Miami once again this season, there’s also a chance that he could be suiting up elsewhere if the Heat are able to find a trade partner. Since he's 26 years old and regressed in certain ways last season, the organization could elect to ship him off for the right return.