The San Antonio Spurs will need at least a couple of guys to make a big leap to be competitive in the Western Conference this season, and Keldon Johnson is showing signs he could be one of those guys.
The 22-year-old comes off a 27-point performance in which he made 12 of his field goal 18 attempts. Best of all? They weren't all off of barrelling attacks to the hoop. He had his fair amount of those, sure, but the opening minutes of the Spurs' game in Denver showed hints of some new weapons.
Starting off the game with a mid-range jumper, floater, and then a driving and-one, Johnson is starting to show he's not just a one trick pony anymore. By the end of the night, eight of his 27 points came from the mid-range while 16 took place in the paint.
When I looked at Johnson's floor and ceiling a few weeks ago, I specifically said adding a second move like a mid-range shot or floater is the biggest factor in how much he can improve. While an extremely small sample size, he's already showing improvement from beyond five feet so far.
5-9 ft: 5/7 (57.1%)
10-14 ft: 4/4 (100%)
15-19 ft: 4/5 (80%)
Obviously, none of these numbers are sustainable, but Johnson shot 33.7%, 44%, and 54.5% respectively in those areas last season. There's definitely room for improvement, at least in those first two ranges.
Beyond showing a better jumper in the first two games, Keldon's long-striding attacks to the basket are leading to some excellent finishes and often getting him to the free throw line.
While it looks like Keldon's offseason work is paying off, his outside shot still seems to be off. He's only attempted three so far this season and missed them all. As I pointed out in talking to a shooting expert recently, his form could use some tweaks to fix that -- which could also help his free throw shooting.
Time will tell if his first two games become the norm, but the fact that Keldon is showing a variety of ways to score is promising. Teams learned last season they can simply crowd the paint to render Johnson relatively ineffective. If he keeps this up, that will no longer be the case.