San Antonio Spurs: Breaking Down Kai Jones vs. Jalen Johnson
With the 2021 NBA Draft fast approaching, many San Antonio Spurs fans are speculating who the team will select with the 12th overall pick this Thursday.
Four of the Spurs' last six first-round picks have been guards 6-5 or under. It's no secret that San Antonio could use some frontcourt depth to go with their bevy of young guards. With that in mind, let's take a look at two of the top targets for Brian Wright and company.
Sophomore forward Kai Jones of Texas and freshman forward Jalen Johnson from Duke are two prospects that closely fit what San Antonio will be looking for in this draft. The two players possess similar physical characteristics but bring different things to the game with their skillsets.
Kai Jones was an elite rim-runner in his second year with the Texas Longhorns, showcasing his athleticism and solid outside shot while shooting a smooth 58% from the field. His size and physical style of play make him an attractive pick in San Antonio. The Spurs haven't had a consistent lob threat like Jones since Dewayne Dedmon in 2016-17. Being able to pair Keldon Johnson with another high-energy player like him could be an intriguing option.
Jalen Johnson approaches the game as more of a point forward than Jones. In 13 games at Duke, he averaged 2.2 assists per contest and consistently found good shots for his teammates. Johnson also showed himself to be a capable rebounder who can push the ball in transition. On the defensive side of the ball, he routinely contained bigs and smaller guards.
While only playing half as many games in 2020-21 as Jones, Johnson tallied 13 more assists and was on pace to record more points, rebounds, blocks, and steals as well. Knocking down 8 of his 18 3-point attempts (44%) wasn't a bad look either. His commitment will be questioned because of his early departure from Duke, but his talent is undeniable.
Who is the right choice for the San Antonio Spurs?
In terms of roster fit, the Spurs would do themselves well to add a versatile big man like Johnson. He's impressive athletically and stronger fundamentally. Bringing in a player that can impact the game in a variety of ways could allow him to mesh quickly with others in the young core.
Both players have some question marks around their ability to create in the low post, and neither has an ultra-polished half court game. But with rumors swirling that DeMar DeRozan may be opting to leave in free agency, the Spurs will be in need of playmakers, and Jalen Johnson fits the bill perfectly.
If he's available when San Antonio picks 12th, they would be wise to consider giving him a chance.