Keldon Johnson has new talents
We all know and love him as Big Body because he doesn’t care who’s standing where. He will get to his spot to score rebounds or a block. But Johnson has added some new touch and elegance to his game that we haven’t seen before and that should be downright alarming to opposing teams.
Last season, Johnson drove around the paint like a bull, putting up as many shots as he could from as close to the basket as possible. So far this season, over half of his two-pointers have come from more than ten feet out, which means he’s becoming a real shooting threat, not just a driver.
I never think Keldon Johnson will be better than Giannis. I think Giannis is a generational talent who could easily go down as a top ten player ever. Giannis has made millions of dollars by running through people even though his defenders know what is about to happen to them.
Keldon Johnson can score with a very similar style. His defenders used to know he was going to charge them, but now that he can pull up comfortably from 15-18 feet out and hoist up a jumper that will probably go in or avoid a dunk and instead opt for a teardrop, he can become a dual-threat scorer. If defenders stay on top of him, he can overpower them and drive to the hoop. If they play it safe, he can make them pay with a jump shot.
So far he is yet to make a 3-pointer. Granted, he has only taken seven in this young season, but it would be nice if he could make at least one. A triple-threat scorer is a lot better than a dual-threat, which seems to be the only thing holding him back right now.
Johnson is averaging 20 points with his current shooting and is by far the Spurs’ leading scorer. There is no reason to think either of these will change much. Watching him play, he just looks like a 20-points-a-night type of guy. He plays with confidence and swagger, and when he knows where he’s going, he looks good with the ball.
The only downside is the learning curve. Keldon spent all season last year charging to the basket, and this season when he puts his head down, he seems to have an inner dialogue where he remembers he can pull up and shoot the ball. His gathering is clumsy at best when he has to alter his path to the basket, but as with most new developments, that will go away in time.
Based on last season, sure, Johnson is the 18th-best power forward in the league. But based on his gold medal summer and his play so far, he could easily pass Jerami Grant, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jaren Jackson Jr, Aaron Gordan, Kristaps Porzingis, Tobias Harris, John Collins, and Pascal Siakam. Who knows, maybe he’ll push the top five if he really breaks out.
By the end of the season, Johnson will remain one of the most underrated players in the league but have a concrete ranking as one of the league’s better or best forwards. Despite that, I’ll still cry that his ranking should be higher because he is one of the most promising young talents in the league.
If he played in a bigger or more popular market, he’d be an All-Star candidate this season and a surefire Most Improved Award nominee. While those accolades would be nice, fans of the San Antonio Spurs should be content that the Alamo City is home again to one of the best forwards in the Association.