The risk of not trading Keldon Johnson sooner

Did the San Antonio Spurs miss an opportunity to receive valuable assets from a Keldon Johnson trade at the deadline?

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat
San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

It seems to be a common sentiment among San Antonio Spurs Nation that Keldon Johnson is a potentially expendable piece of the roster. There are many reasons for this, including his team-friendly contract, his ability to play multiple roles- guard, forward, starter, bench player- and his combination of experience and youth.

Before getting into the crux of this, I can’t hide my affinity for Keldon Johnson and what he provides for this team. If you’ve read any of my previous articles around or about Keldon, you already know this. Keldon is the heart of this team. The other players look to him for guidance when a voice of reason or calmness is needed in crunch time and during timeouts.

The Spurs, as an organization, count on him to provide community service and represent the team in public. He’s still a young player, at only 24 years old, but he has veteran experience (four years in the league). He is sized to play both guard and forward, has the versatility to shoot the three or drive to the hoop, and, again, is on a team-friendly contract.

Ok, the fanfest is over. All these positives I highlighted are also reasons why the Spurs should trade him. Obviously, this was more pertinent a few weeks ago, but the idea remains.

Keldon is their best trade piece considering overall value.

The problem with this is that Keldon’s play has declined over the last few weeks. It could potentially have hit rock bottom in the February 25th game against the Jazz when Keldon played only four minutes. This was not due to injury, but due to his making repetitive mistakes, according to Coach Mitch Johnson.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of his quality of play, especially if the Spurs are considering moving Keldon at some point. A comment like that, made publicly, surely scares other teams.

Over nine February games, Johnson’s highest point total is 19, only achieved once against Brooklyn. He hasn’t gotten other teammates involved much either, having over three assists only once in that same time frame. His overall shooting percentage for this season is down from his career percentage, albeit not by much at 45.1% from 46.5% career. Johnson’s three-point percentage is also down this season, at 33.2% from 35.6% for his career.

Johnson sat out the final game in January and the initial game in February due to injury. It’s possible he has not fully recovered yet. The Spurs, as a team, are also finding their identity and who they want the ball to run through offensively. Johnson is likely having to adjust to not being the focal point of the offense and not even the second option.

Whatever the reason, the Spurs could potentially be losing value on an asset to make the team better. Victor Wembanyama is not going to accept losing for long. If trading Keldon Johnson is the best way for the Spurs to rapidly improve this off-season, Coach Pop and company need to hope Johnson’s play turns around quickly and the team can go into the summer with another asset to make the team better moving forward.