The San Antonio Spurs rookie failed to make Zach Lowe’s All-Rookie Team
When it comes to postseason NBA awards, the All-Rookie Team is by far the least meaningful and hardest to judge. A rookie on a bad team can be afforded 30 minutes per night and a plethora of shots, boosting their stats while losing game after game, and still, they’ll make the First Team. Meanwhile, All-Rookie Second Teams are frequently stocked with players who go on to have relatively unremarkable careers. In light of this, the omission of San Antonio Spurs rookie Keldon Johnson is neither surprising nor particularly upsetting.
In his review of his All-Rookie selections, ESPN’s Zach Lowe acknowledges the difficulties in evaluating the cases of different rookies. It might be slightly frustrating not to see Keldon’s name on the list but the All-Rookie team is based on which players had the best seasons, not who is going to have the best career. Here is who Lowe had on his list.
All-Rookie First Team
- Zion Williamson
- Ja Morant
- Brandon Clarke
- Kendrick Nunn
- Eric Paschall
All-Rookie Second Team
- PJ Washington
- Tyler Herro
- Coby White
- Terence Davis
- Rui Hachimura
There’s a lot of good players on these lists. Morant and Williamson are going to be superstars for years to come, Clarke is an excellent addition to the Grizzlies young core, Paschall should help the Warriors for years, and Nunn and Herro give the Miami Heat a great injection of youth in the backcourt to compliment Jimmy Butler.
Keldon Johnson among notable omissions from Zach Lowe’s All-Rookie Team
For as many deserving names as Lowe’s list had it also left off more than a few equally impressive young players. RJ Barrett, Matisse Thybulle, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, Keldon Johnson, and Michael Porter Jr. to name a few.
Again, the All-Rookie Team is based on who had the best season, not who is going to have the best career. San Antonio Spurs fans can take comfort in knowing that Johnson will likely have a long and successful career with the team, perhaps better than several of his draft classmates who made the All-Rookie Team ahead of him.
Based on this season alone, Johnson’s absence from the list makes sense. He played in just 9 NBA games this year and averaged an unremarkable 4.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, and .7 assists per contest. Those simply aren’t award-winning numbers by any measurement.
In a way, Johnson was a victim of circumstances. He was coming to a team that rarely features rookies in prominent roles, had several established veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, and has had a run of success with their G-League program and development processes. The Spurs didn’t need to feature Keldon in a role similar to what Clarke, Herro, or Hachimura were, nor did they want to. If he had been given 27 minutes per game as Herro had, could Johnson have put up All-Rookie numbers? I think so. But he wasn’t, so he didn’t.
Despite this, Johnson has been frequently praised by his teammates and coaches for his positive attitude, joyful nature, work ethic, and hard-nosed style of play. He has impressed Spurs fans in his limited minutes in regular-season games and scrimmages and looks ready to take on a larger role for a Spurs team that is trending towards a rebuild.
When we look back at Keldon Johnson’s career we’re going to talk more about how he helped the San Antonio Spurs transition into the next era of greatness, not how he missed out on an All-Rookie selection after playing 9 NBA games his rookie season. Look forward Spurs fans, not back.