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Spurs: Keldon Johnson can be one of the best forwards in NBA

Keldon Johnson
Keldon Johnson / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages
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Keldon Johnson / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

Keldon Johnson is beating his competition

Over three games in this young season, Johnson has faced off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Aaron Gordon, both of whom are ranked higher on the power forward list than he is. I don’t think Keldon reads Sporting News, but if he does, it certainly points to where he’s gotten his fire this season. 

Keldon is ranked #18 and Aaron Gordon is ranked #13. Keldon Johnson scored 27 on 66% shooting to go with three steals against Aaron Gordon. Gordon scored eight points and was non-existent on defense. If you’re wondering if I’m saying one game was enough to swap their rankings, let me be clear: yes I am!

Gordon makes nearly $20 million a year. He should not be embarrassed this early in the season by a young buck on an “unwatchable” team. Keldon Johnson didn’t just beat Aaron Gordon. He dismantled and humiliated him. 

When the Spurs go up against other high flying forwards like John Collins, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Jayson Tatum, there’s no reason to think Keldon can’t put on a similar show. 

In the Spurs’ most recent loss to the Bucks, Johnson was not tasked with guarding Giannis one on one. Jakob Poeltl did an excellent job with that and he deserves praise. Giannis had what most players would consider a fine all-around game. 21 points, three blocks, okay shooting, and eight rebounds and assists. Johnson had 20 points and an overall very similar game to Giannis.

The striking difference between the two performances was that Giannis looked scared. Poeltl would meet him at the rim, the Spurs gave him room to shoot, and he never pulled the trigger, and his powerful drives drew charges that got him in foul trouble. It was Keldon “Mustang” Johnson, the wily and often uncontrolled 22-year-old, who looked cool, calm, and collected. He was going up against the NBA champions, the best player in the league, and he looked good doing it.

Johnson did not obliterate the Bucks like he did the Nuggets. Giannis is still the undisputed best power forward in the league, but Johnson showed he can crush the mid-tier guys and hang with the best of the best.