San Antonio Spurs: What Keldon Johnson should work on to be an All-Star
Can San Antonio Spurs youngster Keldon Johnson make an All-Star Team?
Next up in our series covering what various young San Antonio Spurs have to do to improve their chances of making an All-Star Game is Keldon Johnson. We’ve already covered what Dejounte Murray’s, Derrick White’s, and Lonnie Walker’s chances for All-Star consideration are but Keldon might be the most intriguing of the bunch. Don’t believe me? Give me ten minutes of your time.
Keldon slipped in the draft for a reason but his landing in San Antonio is a three-way win for the player, organization, and fans. The majority of draft reviews described him as a tough, high energy, useful rotation player who would spend the majority of the season in the G-League – as most Spurs rookies tend to do.
Although Keldon got limited playing time this season his performances with the Austin Spurs and in the Orlando bubble both reflect the same thing – this young player has a ton of potential.
During his time with the Austin Spurs, he averaged 20 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 30 minutes per game. While some G-league performance can be dismissed, his time in Orlando showed the same consistent play.
In his eight games in the bubble, Keldon averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes per game while hitting on an unsustainable 65 percent of his 3-point attempts. This is a limited sample size but it came with a lot on the line as every game mattered a bit more as the Spurs did everything they could to chase a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the Spurs were not able to squeak into the playoffs but Keldon’s performance was encouraging.
So what makes Keldon so special and what does he need to work on to merit All-Star consideration in three years’ time?
What does Keldon Johnson need to work on to make his first All-Star Game?
In year one Keldon differentiated himself as a player who isn’t afraid of contact. Whether it is on offense or defense he is fearless. Few players actively and purposely look for contact but Keldon is one of those players. Continuing to lean into that physicality will only help him become a better player down the road.
He is the type of player who could play in both the 1980s and current-day NBA. He doesn’t shy away from contact but already has the ability to keep balance and finish drives to the basket. He has the size and durable frame to absorb contact and not be thrown off rhythm.
Although he isn’t a prototypical big man he can spend some time on the block and hold his own. So even though he won’t be required to guard bigs consistently he can provide relief if needed in a small-ball lineup.
Every team needs a rotation player willing to get physical and do the dirty work. After year one Keldon already meets that requirement but believing that is all he can contribute on is vastly selling him short.
Another area that Keldon can continue to emphasize is the frantic pace at which he plays. Think of Keldon as a young Russell Westbrook. We’re not comparing skills rather the desire to compete and give it one’s all during every play.
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Playing with passion is not only invigorating for a fanbase it is also contagious for teammates. Whether the cameras are on or not we can imagine that Keldon knows of only one way to play the game of basketball: at full speed and leaving it all on the court. These attributes are surprisingly missing from many players with much greater skillsets. But they are partially what makes Keldon an intriguing prospect at such a young age.
Keldon is still very young and enters year two with a lot of promise. He is still some years away but if he puts in the work he will be on the cusp of All-Star level status. Keldon can look to both Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler as players who were drafted with reputations as defensive stoppers but have developed extensive offensive repertoires.
It will take time but Keldon should continue to work on adding some go-to post up moves to maximize his strength and quickness against smaller players in the post, continue to shoot the three, and develop a pull-up jumper to keep defenses honest.
To become a true star he’s going to need to build out a more versatile offensive game. We’ve seen what he can do in flashes and now the next step will be to see if he can extend that across an entire season.
Keldon Johnson has tons of potential. We can expect more playing time and commercials for KJ going into year two. If Keldon can continue to develop it would not be far fetched to see him enter All-Star consideration within three year’s time.