Out goes LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles, in comes Keldon Johnson.
With the NBA’s restart down at Orlando’s Walt Disney World planned to tip-off on July 30, more and more players continue to remove themselves from the bubble concept for various reasons. As a result, rosters and the rotations within them are going to look a bit differently than when the season was suspended on March 11. For someone like Johnson, he could see an immediate increase in playing time for the San Antonio Spurs.
Over at The San Antonio Express-News, they caught up with the former Wildcat to see how he’s preparing for Orlando and the potential of getting in on the action for a hopeful playoff run. Johnson spent the majority of the 2019-20 season down in the G League with the Austin Spurs and finally worked his way up to the NBA just as the season was about to be suspended.
Keldon Johnson entered the league with an NBA-ready body. But his teammates say his best attribute won't be found on a scouting report. “His smile is the best thing,” Dejounte Murray said. “He brings a light to the team.” #Spurs https://t.co/wVYjlIMAwi
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) July 17, 2020
He appeared in just nine games for the Spurs, but over the final four games of the regular season, Johnson posted 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per outing. His best showing was a 13-point, five-rebound performance against the Brooklyn Nets on March 6. Now, with injuries to players ahead of him in the rotation like Aldridge and Lyles, Johnson will have a shot to showcase the promise he did roughly four months ago. Those two players are both big men, so there’s a good chance we could be seeing Johnson–who is a sturdy 6-foot-5–running in a small-ball lineup at the four.
“I just love the chance to get out there and show what I can do,” Johnson said, according to Tom Orsborn. “It’s a great opportunity, and, hopefully, we can win some games.”
Johnson was the 29th overall pick by the Spurs in the 2019 NBA Draft and spent most of his rookie season excelling in the G League. As a member of the Austin Spurs, he averaged an impressive 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per outing while shooting slightly over 53 percent from the floor.
Derrick and Dejounte on Keldon Johnson's infectious energy and smile during media availability earlier today: pic.twitter.com/rrwk5DkQkI
— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) July 17, 2020
In the article, Johnson explains how he’s spent the last several months watching a ton of film and working on his outside shot; He shot under 25 percent from 3 as a G Leaguer on three attempts per game. Considering the Spurs ranked 28th out of 30 possible teams this season in three-point attempts per game, Johnson adding that to his game could be an attractive weapon off the bench for head coach Gregg Popovich.
While Johnson has long excelled on the offensive end, it’s the defensive side of the ball that his teammates have been raving about. According to Orsborn, Spurs point guard, Derrick White, believes Johnson has the skill and desire to excel in that area.
“He’s got good size, good length and he competes, which is a big thing on defense,” White said. “He wants to be good defensively.”
Johnson has quickly become known as a tireless worker at the next level by his peers. It sounds like he’s going to have at least one opportunity to prove himself once the restart begins and if he’s ready for it, it could be a major stepping stone for his still young NBA career.