Once again, the San Antonio Spurs snagged a sleeper prospect in Kentucky swingman Keldon Johnson with the 29th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
There’s something enticing about drafting a player like Keldon Johnson late in the first round of the NBA Draft. Projected to go mid-way through the first round and considered a lottery pick by some, Johnson slipped all the way to the 29th pick for the San Antonio Spurs; securing another swingman to slot under DeMar DeRozan and Lonnie Walker IV in the rotation.
Standing at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Johnson is a talented slasher with a well-rounded offensive skill set at only 19 years old. In his freshman season under John Calipari, Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and an impressive 38.1 percent from three-point range.
Amongst a laundry list of reasons to be excited for Johnson’s fit in San Antonio is his malleability – there’s not telling just how far he can push himself in the pros. With a humble demeanor and an emphasis on hard work, Johnson should fit in nicely with the Spurs’ culture as he works on his craft and establishes himself within Gregg Popovich’s rotation.
The transition from Calipari to Popovich will be an interesting journey for the prospect. Though differing in methods, both of his coaches emphasize good citizenship and dedication to the intricacies of this sport. His experience in Lexington should serve him well in his transition to the Alamo City.
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Johnson has the physical profile of a switchable defender who can slot at the shooting guard or small forward positions. The same goes for the team’s previous draft selection in Walker, though Johnson projects to fill out a sturdier frame with less length. San Antonio is in desperate need of some 3-and-D help on the wing and Johnson can provide that once he develops his game.
As a scorer, Johnson has shown the ability to fill many different roles. He made 44 percent of his spot up jumpers at Kentucky while showing off the ability to attack the basket with toughness and staggering athleticism. Johnson’s been known to throw down some thunderous dunks and hustles hard on both ends of the floor. He’s capable of using active hands on defense to interrupt passing lanes and translating it to a strong bucket on the other end.
By learning under the culture and development program of the San Antonio Spurs, Johnson should be able to realize his potential. He has a decent handle and is more than capable of spacing the floor while also serving as a threat to attack the rim.
The Summer League should give a greater indication as to what the Spurs can expect from Johnson, but this is an ideal fit for both parties. It’ll be exciting to see how he discovers and expands his game in the Silver and Black.