After eight seasons, Miami Heat forward James Johnson finally broke out. Now, he hits free agency looking for a huge duffle bag.

James Johnson was given a role this year that he had never seen. As a significant piece of the Heat’s rotation, Erik Spoelstra looked toward him to be a do-it-all guy who played both ends the floor with tons of energy and aggressiveness. It was perfect.

In 76 games, Johnson averaged a career-best 27.4 minutes, which led to him reaching new statistical heights. The most eye-popping stat is the point total, and his 12.8 a night was 3.7 more than his previous high of 9.1 back in 2012. Additionally, Johnson played some of the most efficient basketball of his career and finished with a true shooting clip of 56.4. It’s intriguing looking over the numbers because Johnson isn’t someone known for his offensive versatility, but he gave Miami just that. He’s got great explosiveness and body control that’s deceiving because he doesn’t look like someone who would be able to jump out of the gym. Regardless, Johnson is a threat to put someone on a poster — just ask Stephen Curry.

His robust frame allows him to play above the rim with no problems. lists him at 6-9, 250. Johnson can absorb contact or contort his body to avoid it, and it’s a big reason why he connected on 61.3 percent of his attempts within three feet. Miami’s dreadful offense benefitted greatly from Johnson’s versatility because he gave them someone who could create his shot. In addition to his athleticism, he’s got the dexterity to put the ball on the deck and get to the basket, either in a straight line or with a couple of dribble moves. If the defense closes the lane, Johnson’s got a soft touch from midrange and can pull up from around the free throw line with guard-like ease. Being a threat from that zone makes the defense even antsier because it’s such a troublesome area to defend. Not only do they have to press up to take away the shot, but they also need to make sure they’re not too close because a player with Johnson’s skill set can easily get the step and collapse the defense.

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His improvement as a passer was more noticeable than anything else. Johnson’s 276 dimes were the most he had ever handed out in a season, and the Heat was able to put him in a variety of sets and have him create scoring chances. Whether it was the pick-and-roll or a drive-and-kick, he routinely found the open man. Despite making strides as a playmaker, Miami had to live with him committing more turnovers than over because of his increased usage. Johnson averaged 2.3 a night, but Basketball Reference estimated that 92 of his 171 turnovers were because of bad passes — essentially, Johnson still has to improve as a decision-maker, but he’s not afraid of trying to make a play.

Defensively is where any team is going to see Johnson at his best. Since coming into the league, he’s never disappointed on that end. As a team, Miami had one of the NBA’s five best defenses and was anchored by Hassan Whiteside. Johnson, however, made a legitimate case as the team’s best defender, and I’ll go out on a limb and say he was their most versatile. He can matchup against the three or the four and even play small-ball center, and he’s got the size, strength and athleticism not to be grossly overmatched at any of those three positions.

Whiteside was the only Heat player to have more blocks than Johnson (161 to 86), and he was third in steals (76) behind Tyler Johnson (84) and Goran Dragic (89). Johnson’s nightly averages were 1.1 for blocks and 1.0 for steals, making him one of 11 players to put up at least one a night in both categories, according to Basketball Reference. Additionally, Miami’s defense was five points worse per 100 possessions when Johnson wasn’t off the floor.

I’d be puzzled not to see multiple playoff teams throw a contract Johnson’s way if they can afford it. The Heat nearly made the postseason after one of the most miraculous turnarounds in NBA history, and Johnson elevated his level of play during that run. Jan. 17 was the season’s halfway mark, and Miami went 30-11 over the final 41 games only to fall just short of the eighth seed in the East. Johnson didn’t dominate in one facet. Instead, he did a bit of everything and gave Miami the energy and edge that they needed to win.

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He boasted a plus/minus of plus-5.4, which was second to Dion Waiters for the team lead. His points shot up to 13.9 a night and were highlighted by back-to-back games with 26 against Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Johnson maintained his efficiency and shot the ball at 46.8 percent despite inaccuracy from downtown, and he continued to make a difference on the glass (5.0) and with facilitating (4.3). Above all else, he maintained dominance on defense.

James Johnson isn’t a max contract player, but he’s worth way more than the $4 million that the Heat paid him this year. The Heat have $95.6 million on the books for next season, but that includes the $25.2 they owe Chris Bosh along with the player options for Waiters and Willie Reed. I can’t see Miami not offering Johnson anything. As always, they need to be careful. He had a breakout season, but he also turned 30. Tying him down to a long-term deal wouldn’t be the right move, but he’s going to be a hot commodity nonetheless.

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