Sometimes when you’re too close to a situation it can be hard to see things clearly. How many times have we all seen this in our day-to-day lives when you’re looking for something around the house only to find that it was right in front of you the entire team. That’s exactly the kind of situation San Antonio Spurs fans have gotten themselves into in their search for the team’s power forward of the future.
Spurs fans know things are different from the Big three glory days of perennial championship contention. And as we all long for a return to those heights there are differing viewpoints on the best and fastest way to get there.
The Spurs’ knack for finding diamonds in the rough and superior player development has allowed them to collect an exciting group of young players. Some fans seem to think the team has every position covered with the lone exception being an explosive power forward to round out the young core. They would be wrong. The long-term solution is already on the San Antonio Spurs in the form of our favorite young player, the Mustang, Keldon Johnson.
Keldon Johnson can be the San Antonio Spurs power forward for a long time
I personally have been in the camp that has claimed the only thing missing is a young, bouncy, and athletic power forward. I’ve personally advocated for Jonathan Isaac as a target for San Antonio. And many of you have thrown out names like Aaron Gordon, John Collins, and Lauri Markkanen, amongst others as the perfect fit and solution to pair with the Spurs young core of Murray, White, Walker, Keldon, Vassell, and Poeltl.
But maybe, just maybe what we really need is to take a step back. After all, as the league has changed so has the definition of prototypical positions. The positional boxes we put players into for years are gone. What teams really need is a set of players on the court that can play together and dominate their opponent, regardless of their size. Keldon fits right into that description.
One can argue that Keldon’s ideal position in the NBA is at the three due to his size and offensive limitations. But that hasn’t stopped the Spurs from playing him as their nominal power forward for stretches at a time.
At 6’5″ and 220 lbs, Keldon may be considered undersized when facing the Anthony Davis’s or Giannis’s of the NBA but he is the same height as PJ Tucker who served as the de facto center of the Houston Rockets during their playoff run last season. Another undersized power forward whose size did not limit their production was Charles Barkley. Long before he was the hilarious man on Inside the NBA, Sir Charles was a dominant player who used his strength and quickness to terrorize opponents, including our beloved Spurs in the playoffs.
Keldon will need to continue to pack on muscle if he wants to be able to battle with the most physical players in the league. But as we’ve seen from the progress he made over the summer he’s no stranger to the gym. And you don’t have to watch him play for long to see that he embraces contact and physical basketball at every opportunity.
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Another argument for Keldon stepping up to be the Spurs power forward is because of how it would help the roster down the road. If the Spurs want to get all of their young guys on the floor together, moving Johnson to the frontcourt would open up a spot on the wing that Devin Vassell would be perfect for.
On the offensive end, Keldon is a work in progress. He loves contact and is not afraid to get physical which is great for his drives to the basket. These drives can sometimes be uncontrolled they can also lead to signature plays so it’s best not to critique his aggressiveness. Where Keldon can improve is to develop some post-up moves.
Here, Keldon can look to the aforementioned Barkley who used his strength and quickness to dominate as an undersized power forward. Barkley also shot the occasional three-pointer and Keldon has already made impressive improvements in his three-point shooting. He’s increased his three-point attempts from 1.3 3PA his rookie season to the current 3.0 3PA attempts this year – shooting them at 32.6%.
On the defensive end, Keldon has the strength and quickness to guard the majority of his opponents although he does have trouble against certain unicorns but who doesn’t. The focus areas for Keldon would be on the rebounding efforts where his 6.7 rebounds per game and 5.0 defensive rebounds per game could improve.
There is room for improvement but with more time to focus and work with the coaching staff, it isn’t difficult to expect Keldon’s rebounding, post-up game and ability to slow the tempo all improve. With his energy and competitiveness, Keldon is a perfect power forward to compliment a young San Antoni Spurs core to a young core that has untapped potential.