The NBA has figured out Keldon Johnson, and now he must adjust
How the San Antonio Spurs must adapt to a shifting defensive scheme
In Keldon’s most recent dominant performance, one where he put up the first 20-point, 20-rebound game since Tim Duncan, you can see where Cleveland went wrong in defending him.
In the Spurs’ opening possession, Keldon catches a feed at the wing and is immediately sprinted toward by two defenders. Big mistake.
The result looked like this:https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/03/19/0022000435/13/a61ca8b2-1cab-92b5-5408-037034779d59_1280x720.mp4
As you’d expect, Johnson finishes with an easy layup due to the Cavaliers’ poor closeout. Later in the same game, he catches a pass in the same spot and there’s literally no one in the paint at that time. This leads to another successful drive to the hoop.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/03/19/0022000435/291/8d0d243e-606b-c905-4927-99c6679370da_1280x720.mp4
Of course, there’s a reason Cleveland is 17-31 and is in the bottom third in the league defensively. Still, this illustrates what a lot of teams were doing earlier in the season — staying up on their men to stop the outside shot.
In the Spurs’ current homestand, almost every team is exclusively packing the paint and forcing San Antonio to beat them from the outside. With Johnson, Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, and Dejounte Murray all in the starting lineup, it’s easy to see why. Of those, only White is a respected high-volume shooter.
Thursday’s loss to Atlanta perfectly encapsulated the biggest issue with the Spurs not having enough shooters. White shot 7-for-13 from downtown while the rest of the team was a combined 6-for-27. Look at where the defense is when Keldon catches the ball from the same spot against Atlanta.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/04/01/0022000735/269/de824bad-3929-3e3a-964b-6e860b7dd137_1280x720.mp4
With everybody packing the paint, both Devin Vassell and Keldon are left wide-open for a 3-pointer. This time, Johnson receives the pass from Mills and misses the three. Johnson’s 3-point shooting has now dipped to 32.5 percent on the season, meaning he’s missing two of every three attempts he takes.
Next: How Can Keldon Adjust?