San Antonio Spurs: All I want for Christmas is more Keldon Johnson

San Antonio Spurs Keldon Johnson (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Keldon Johnson (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs got fiesta jerseys and Devin Vassell this offseason, but their biggest present may be the emergence of Keldon Johnson.

The world doesn’t know about Keldon Johnson yet, but it soon will. San Antonio Spurs fans got their first signs of his capabilities in a road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on March 6th. That night, Johnson came in to score 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while grabbing five boards in just 21 minutes.

Fast forward to the Orlando bubble, where Johnson made it known that he’s much more than the usual 29th pick. The Spurs had the opportunity to pick up Keldon as part of a package deal with Toronto that sent their disgruntled star, Kawhi Leonard, up north. As we’ve previously written, the real gem of the trade could very well end up being Johnson himself.

Johnson’s impressive showing in Orlando, one in which he averaged 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds on 63 percent shooting, was enough to earn him a surprising start in the Spurs’ season-opener against the Memphis Grizzlies.

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The move to start the 6-5 small forward was universally celebrated by the entire Spurs Twitter family, and the Mustang didn’t disappoint, nailing the first shot of the season for San Antonio.

K3LDON gets us started tonight! ?

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2020

Even more impressive was Keldon’s ever-increasing ability to finish in traffic on tough drives. He demonstrated it plenty in July’s restart, but after reportedly gaining eight pounds of muscle since that time, he looked even more unstoppable Wednesday night.

I don’t think Jonas Valančiūnas saw this coming at all.

That's tough ?

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 24, 2020

Keldon finished with a line of 16 points, five rebounds, three steals, and three assists in 32 minutes against Memphis. Keep in mind; this was after having missed the preseason with an injury and being thrown into the starting lineup in his first action since August.

The smaller Spurs lineup featuring Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Dejounte Murray was not only the most fun version of the team to watch in years, but their quick pace gives them a whole new offensive dimension.

With Derrick White’s return, Coach Popovich’s most significant task will be finding extensive minutes for the rest of the bubble Spurs that shined alongside him. His tendency to lean heavily on his veterans must now be a thing of the past.

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Starting Keldon and playing him 32 minutes felt like a Christmas miracle. Let’s just hope that becomes a trend.