San Antonio Spurs: Is Keldon developing a deadly new weapon in Tokyo?
By Josh Paredes
The San Antonio Spurs have more to gain from Keldon Johnson's time in Tokyo than another Olympic gold medalist representing the franchise. The continued growth of Johnson's game is as inevitable as the fate of the rim on one of his patented, unstoppable drives. In some exhibition action to warm up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 21-year-old has shown signs of a weapon that could be huge for his role in San Antonio.
The basketball world was abuzz Sunday night after Keldon Johnson had a superb performance in a battle of gold medal favorites against Spain. Keldon was the team's second-highest scorer behind Damian Lillard, tallying 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. He also added an impressive recovery block and three boards in his 17 minutes.
Beyond that, Keldon showed a smooth stroke on a shot he hasn't often broken out with the Spurs in his first two seasons: the corner three. After nailing one against Australia in an early exhibition loss, Johnson's high-arching three against Spain helped trigger a run that Team USA wouldn't give up the rest of the way.
From someone who only made one-third of his perimeter attempts last year, the form and rotation on Keldon's shots in Tokyo have been encouraging. More importantly, he's shown the ability to knock down threes from places other than his usual above-the-break area.
Last season, Keldon shot 181 total threes, making 60. Of those attempts, 134 were above-the-break attempts, accounting for 74 percent. He shot 35 percent on such attempts. From the corners, he shot just 28.9 percent combined, going 7-of-28 from the left and 6-of-17 from the right.
Keldon was fifth in corner three attempts on the San Antonio Spurs last season but his percentage from there was lower than everyone with at least 12 attempts besides DeMar DeRozan. Not great, but there's some good news.
In his limited time on the court in 2019-20, Keldon shot a blistering 53.3 from corners, making 8-of-15. While obviously a small sample size, it's still a good sign that he was able to connect on so many as a rookie barely getting minutes.
In Tokyo, the fact that Keldon will be sharing the court with so many proven stars should allow him to get plenty of wide-open shots. Keep an eye on the corner spot to maximize spacing for Team USA, and don't be surprised if he gets that going once again when he returns to San Antonio.