3 San Antonio Spurs who will benefit most from Manu Ginobili's mentoring
By Ethan Farina
Ginobili can help Keldon Johnson find new ways to punish opponents near the rim
It didn't take long for Keldon Johnson to endear himself to San Antonio Spurs fans. With his positive personality, aggressive style of play, and the energy of a 6-year-old with far too much sugar in his system, Keldon was a favorite of his teammates, coaches, and Spurs fans shortly after making his rookie debut in 2020.
In his sophomore season, Johnson averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game which, while not terribly impressive, doesn't do his true potential the justice it deserves. Watch his 29-point outburst against the Houston Rockets or his 23-point, 21-rebound effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers and you'll see a future star at work.
There are a lot of areas where Ginobili can help Johnson improve, but one that stands out is his ability to finish around the rim. This isn't something that Johnson has struggled with by any means -- he's shot 66 percent from within three feet of the basket across his two seasons in the NBA thus far -- but how he goes about it could use some refinement.
Johnson's preferred method of attack has been a straight-line drive to the basket, defenders in his way be damned. He's not one to shy away from contact, and at 6-5 with a strong frame, why should he? But there are instances where contorting around a defender might be wiser than powering straight through them.
Over and over again, be it with a classic Euro step or a contortionist finish, Manu showed us that he was going to find a way to get his near the rim. Of course, he still knew how to drop the hammer down when it was time, just ask Chris Bosh. But by and large, he was known more as a finisher that tended to use agility and rarely thought of angles to get his points rather than brute force.
At some level, Manu's circus shot-making ability is instinctual, a kind of clutch gene that few players will ever possess. But if Keldon can pick up even just a fraction of Ginobili's ability to twist his body around defenders, he will be well on his way to being even more of a force in the lane than he already is.