We could see more of Keldon Johnson when the San Antonio Spurs return
One of the most exciting things about the San Antonio Spurs returning to play later this week is the possibility of seeing younger players taking on larger roles for the team. The emphasis on development is something that we’ve consistently heard from everyone from Gregg Popovich to DeMar DeRozan and is music to the ears of Spurs fans.
Pop has rarely featured rookies in prominent roles during a typical regular season, more often leaning on veterans who can be counted on to not make the mental mistakes that most rookies are prone to. But the Spurs slim playoff chances, along with injuries to several key players, has forced the coaching staffs’ hand into likely featuring the young guys in more prominent roles.
Of the San Antonio Spurs promising group of youngsters, Lonnie Walker was the one who we most frequently heard fans calling for more playing time for. But there’s another young player who could steal the show in Orlando.
Keldon Johnson is ready for a larger role for the San Antonio Spurs
Just before the season was suspended we were starting to see Keldon Johnson carve out a decent role in the Spurs rotation. He was averaging over 16 minutes per game over the Spurs final four regular-season games of the first part of the season and his aggressive play on both ends of the floor brought a much-needed burst of energy to the team.
Earlier this month we called out Johnson as one of the players who could use these final eight games to solidify his role with the Spurs and, from what we’ve heard from several players, Johnson has impressed so far in practice.
Derrick White and Dejounte Murray have praised his energy and infectious positive attitude, you’ll rarely see Johnson without a massive smile on his face, and Marco Belinelli called him out as one of the young players who had impressed him the most in scrimmages.
This is all great news for the Spurs. Without LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles available they’re going to have to get creative with their frontcourt rotations and Johnson could be a part of the solution. He’s only 6’5 but he’s a dog. He’s physical and looks like he’s added some muscle to what was already a pretty solid frame. He could be in line for some minutes as a small-ball power forward in a fast-paced lineup.
On offense, Johnson is fearless when attacking the rim. While in the G-Leauge he frequently used his athleticism to get to the rim and in his limited time in the NBA just over 48 percent of his field-goal attempts came within 3 feet of the rim. He makes quick, timely cuts and while his jump shot still needs some fine-tuning, he still brings enough on the offensive end of the floor to be a valuable weapon.
Where Johnson can really bring some spunk to the Spurs lineup is with his versatility on defense. He could realistically guard point guards through power forwards when he’s at his peak and testing his abilities in Orlando could help give him a better idea of what he needs to work on in preparation for next season.
Keldon Johnson is one of the most physically ready rookies the San Antonio Spurs have had in quite some time. He’s ready to take on a larger role and should be featured often in the Spurs lineups as they wrap up their regular season in the bubble.