San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson played himself an incredible game against Spain in the Men's National Team's final exhibition game and will soon be heading to Tokyo. While his promotion to the team was controversial in the eyes of some TV analysts, Johnson proved why he's deserving of a spot on the Olympic team.
He was the second-leading scorer for the United States only behind Damian Lillard, finishing with an impressive stat line of 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. Coach Popovich went on record after the game saying that Johnson "played a really solid basketball game." He also got some very heartwarming praise from his teammate Jayson Tatum.
The U.S. Men's National Team is in Group A of the Olympic preliminaries and will play their first game against France this coming Sunday.
Despite Zach Lavine recently clearing health and safety protocols after a brief scare, this just goes to show how crucial it will be for Johnson to go into the Olympics with a clear understanding of his role on the team. Given how many athletes have already been forced to forego participating in the Olympics because of COVID-19, Johnson and the team will have to remain on their toes and open to potential roster changes.
With that in mind, assuming for now that USA's roster doesn't undergo any significant changes in the near future, Johnson's role is already pretty well-defined. For him and the team to see success, he will have to focus on the following three goals in their upcoming games.
Johnson shouldn't force offense, let it come to him
Johnson already did a terrific job of this in his latest game against Spain. We all know him to be a guy that can get his hands on the ball on the perimeter and bully his way to the bucket and--don't get me wrong--he's done it well.
That being said, the Men's National Team has several offensive weapons that are elite when it comes to shot creation and scoring. Between players like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and Zach LaVine, the team has gobs of firepower.
While Johnson is definitely capable of having a high-scoring game, there will probably be no need for him to force offense. If he happens to be on a smaller defender off a switch and thinks he can overpower him, then, by all means, make a move to the basket.
Otherwise, Johnson needs to focus on letting the offense come to him. In his exhibition game against Spain, nearly all of his points were assisted, and yet he was the second-leading scorer on the team that game. He should focus on grabbing offensive rebounds, getting the occasional putback, and making good cuts toward the basket. Once a better facilitator in Jrue Holiday arrives in Tokyo, focusing on those things will probably become even more effective.