Even though he didn’t spend enough time with the San Antonio Spurs to make an All-Rookie team, Keldon Johnson may be the player to outshine them all.
Only three of the 10 players selected to the NBA’s All-Rookie teams for this season appeared in the playoffs unless you count the Memphis Grizzlies’ play-in game. Otherwise, most of the players added had expansive roles with losing teams including many that never had postseason hopes at all. That didn’t apply for the San Antonio Spurs, who never wavered from their ultimate goal of reaching the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season.
Even though rookie Keldon Johnson didn’t quite qualify for one of the 2020 All-Rookie teams, the San Antonio Spurs’ No. 19 pick was stellar for them with every opportunity. Earlier in the season, his on/off-court numbers were swayed due to garbage time play. However, Johnson took on a major role starting four games before the league shut down that never wavered.
Johnson logged 301 minutes this season — About 13 of which were at the end of games in moments that didn’t truly matter. During the Spurs’ eight seeding games, Johnson averaged 14.1 points, five rebounds and 1.1 steals in 26.1 minutes per game. His final On/Off differential for the season was +13.1 points per 100 possessions — The best on this year’s San Antonio Spurs.
Keldon has a (new) career-high 24 PTS and counting! ? pic.twitter.com/QE5zfbB5bS
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 11, 2020
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With a diverse scoring skillset that allows him to get buckets from anywhere on the floor, Johnson shined bright once head coach Gregg Popovich created a role for him. A defensive pest who sticks to his assignment’s hip like glue, Johnson is wise beyond his years and is certain to be an impact player in this league for a very long time.
Legitimate star potential lays within Johnson, but the first step in that process is adjusting to the NBA. The process hasn’t been painstaking for Johnson like it has been for so many rookies in this league, but there’s still plenty for him to learn. With that said, it’s easy to suspect that he’ll be considered one of the great steals of his draft class once the league gets to see him play on a greater scale. His finishing ability is unlike anything I’ve seen from a first-year player in a class highlighted by players with Hall of Fame potential like No. 1 pick Zion Williamson and Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.
Getting that All-Rookie team honor is a great show of appreciation for the young players that earned it, but plenty of great players never made it to that team. That doesn’t mean they can’t emerge as the stars of their class. Breakout players like Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Bam Adebayo and Pascal Siakam never made the All-Rookie team and made it to All-Star status.
Don’t be surprised if the next player to fall into that category is Spurs rookie Keldon Johnson.