We are just a couple of weeks into the NBA season and we’ve already seen the drawbacks of no training camp hit the stars of the NBA pretty hard. On the contrary, the NBA’s youth seems to be thriving in these trying times. We’ve seen breakout starts from multiple second and third-year players. Keldon Johnson of the San Antonio Spurs leads that pack. Here’s why Johnson is the real deal and why NBA fans should get used to hearing his name.
Why Keldon Johnson is the Real Deal
Who is Keldon Johnson?
Keldon Johnson was the 29th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft just two years ago. He spent just one year at Kentucky where he won multiple honors including All-SEC Second Team and SEC Rookie of the Year. His numbers with the Wildcats were not astonishing, but his game centered around his athleticism and defense caused his stock to rise rather quickly in 2019.
The projected lottery pick at one time that season ended up in the hands of the Spurs at pick 29, a steal by many expert calculations. Many believed his shortcomings were all teachable, while many of his strengths were very unique. The kid from Virginia was entering the NBA as one of the most promising prospects in the class and it’s safe to say his game has transferred over well.
Developing His Weaknesses
Johnson’s draft profile listed a couple of problems with his game, highlighted by his hesitant shooting and lack of defensive production. The lack of production on the defensive end wasn’t a question of his ability on defense, but rather jumping on the opportunities to grab blocks and steals. His shooting problems stemmed from his resistance to taking shots, causing some turmoil on the offensive side of the ball for the entire team.
These weaknesses held Johnson back from being a top-end draft pick, but they haven’t held him back from being a developing star in the NBA. Currently, Johnson is fifth on his team in field goals attempts per game (11.8), trailing only the big names like Demar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay. Additionally, he’s shooting much better from behind the arc, another encouraging sign for the 21-year-old.
The main reasoning for Johnson’s development is the hyper-focus on his weaknesses as a player. Many times rookie stars seem to veer towards further strengthening the positives of their game. So far this season, Johnson has taken a different approach and fixed up many of the shortcomings that dropped his draft stock.
The Opportunity is There
Keldon Johnson was a DNP and inactive nearly every game last season. It wasn’t until the bubble in July when Johnson was given a significant opportunity to play. it’s hard enough for a rookie to come into the league and provide immediate support for the squad. It’s even tougher when inconsistent play is partnered with that. Once Johnson got his opportunity last season, however, he showed out.
Johnson averaged 14 points in the bubble and shot well over 60% as well. He proved to the Spurs organization that their pick just a year ago was well worth it. Johnson, for those eight games, looked like a true NBA player. A competitor with his type of game showing that type of offensive promise this early on was already a promising sign.
Many questions were attached to this Spurs organization to start the season. The rotation was far from solidified and once again, there were questions about whether the older guys needed to take a step back this year. For Johnson, it was simply about continuing his great play. Safe to say he’s doing just that, becoming one of the team’s top scorers in the first part of the season.