Keldon Johnson Has Found the Balance Between Finesse and Force
For all of his chaotic energy, Johnson displays deft touch when he’s in the paint. He loads up quickly off of one or two feet, easily dislodges opposing players on his drives, and loves to add flourish to his layups.
Out of the top 100 points-in-paint scorers in the league during the 2020-21 season, he finished tied for fourth in finger rolls with 61, according to NBA Stats. Ja Morant was the other player but needed 27 more attempts to reach that number.
It's sort of odd that a power player like Johnson would be among names like Morant, Stephen Curry, and Malcolm Brogdon in the "Finger Roll Familia," right? That is until one realizes that Antetokounmpo leads the league in those shots by a good margin, and Domantas Sabonis and Williamson are in the top 16. Then, the parallels of how those players balance power and finesse become a little more clear.
Johnson's touch combined with his strength gives him a phenomenal foundation to build on. Of course, he isn't without areas of improvement. He must work on his left-hand finishing, as well as increasing the frequency of the floater game he’s flashed over the years but has never fully weaponized.
He will also need to improve on going up with two hands and consistently initiating contact, as he is prone to exposing the ball early and getting his shot blocked due to insufficient lift when attempting to finish over the top on some defenders.
When he does finish over others, though, it's always a sight to behold and always with authority. It should go without saying that, most times, it's also accompanied by a primal scream.
With the added shooters and complementary pieces from the offseason coupled with DeRozan’s departure, more driving lanes and opportunities will hopefully open up for Johnson and his ferocious dunks. Again, DeRozan’s playmaking last season shouldn’t be undersold, but it’s time for the young core to absorb his duties to see what they can do.
Given Johnson’s compilation of skills, one can only imagine what he will grow into as he adds more strength and refines the rest of his game. Taking everything we’ve observed in his short career thus far into consideration, Spurs fans could be looking at a player with an All-Star level ceiling who is one of the league's most devastating slashers and prolific finishers.