San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson is coming off an eventful summer in which he won a gold medal in the Olympics with Team USA. While winning a gold medal is certainly a great accomplishment, the added experience could prove to be especially beneficial for Johnson. He had a solid sophomore season in which he averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and there are high expectations for him next season.
Fortunately, it’s not uncommon for young players who’ve played for Team USA to see a drastic improvement their following season back in the NBA. This is likely a result of practicing with and playing against some of the world's best players.
Johnson will certainly have the opportunity to show what he's learned over the course of the summer and will hopefully be able to take his game to the next level next season. That said, there's one area in which Johnson should look to develop and which could help him elevate his game.
Why Keldon Johnson should develop a post game
For the first time since 1989, the Spurs won't have a reliable post option at power forward or center in the absence of David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and LaMarcus Aldridge. While it's the end of an era in San Antonio and a sign of an increasingly modernized NBA, it also could be looked at as an opportunity for Johnson.
Because there is now a lack of big men who can effectively post up, there is a growing number of wings that are helping to fill the void. I believe that Johnson can be one of them. After all, Johnson has already proven to be an effective finisher inside of the arc, converting on an impressive 53.1% of his two-point shots last season. Therefore, it makes sense for the Spurs to try and maximize that skill by occasionally having him post up.
At 6'5" with a big frame, Johnson certainly has the size and strength needed to overpower his defender on most nights. In fact, he's shown the tendency to throw his weight around, particularly during his straight-line drives to the basket where he often collides with opposing bigs. That isn't always an effective option, though, so incorporating post-ups into his game could help him use that physicality in a more calculated fashion.
Johnson will likely start at small forward next season alongside Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Doug McDermott, and Jakob Poeltl. Considering Murray and White will likely be the team’s best offensive players, they’re likely to receive most of the opposing team's defensive attention. McDermott will also command attention due to his sharpshooting, all of which could work to Johnson's advantage.
He’ll likely be guarded by the opposing team's least effective perimeter defender due to his subpar three-point shooting ability, which should allow him to attack potential mismatches in the post.
There, he can use his strength to back down his defender and take either a turn-around jumper or a jump hook. He doesn't necessarily have to work with his back to the basket, however. He can catch the ball in the post and face-up his defenders using jab steps and pump fakes to create separation for a jumper.
Johnson connected on a stellar 52.3% of his mid-range jumpers last season and could be particularly effective facing up and operating in either the low or high post. He could also learn to put the ball on the floor and get into the middle of the paint for a jump hook, layup, or a dunk while drawing a foul in the process.
Former Spur Kawhi Leonard could be an excellent model for Johnson, given that he already has all of those moves in his arsenal. Leonard has evolved into one of the league's best post-up wings thanks to his development in San Antonio, and Johnson could potentially do the same. With a more balanced offense that will have much better spacing in the starting lineup, he will have the opportunity and space to begin incorporating a post-game into his arsenal.
Johnson will also need to improve his three-point shooting and add more versatility to his drives to become a truly dangerous offensive player. With that in mind, though, he would be taking a huge step in that direction by using his physical strength to his advantage and learning how to post up on defenders.