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Is Keldon's Role as Spurs' Second Scoring Option Safe?

Keldon Johnson
Keldon Johnson / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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The San Antonio Spurs have a high-powered and up-tempo primary scorer in Dejounte Murray, who has solidified himself as one of the best mid-range maestros in the league. Off the bench, Lonnie Walker IV has exploded after the All-Star break to average over 20 points per game and is finally living up to the expectations. 

Staying within the starting lineup, Murray has plenty of help from Jakob Poeltl down low, as well as Devin Vassell, Doug McDermott, and Keldon Johnson, who is the second-leading scorer on the team with 16 points a night. 

Presently, Johnson has established himself as the second option to put points on the board. His true shooting is third among players who receive consistent minutes behind Poeltl and McDermott. He is shooting 42% from deep, behind only McDermott among high-volume shooters. Johnson is also second on the team in shot attempts per game with a dozen.

How long will Keldon Johnson remain the second option?

This season, Johnson clearly has the title as the second scoring option, but how long will it last? Looking at the starting five, Murray has the primary scoring role solidified for the next several seasons, and Poeltl is having a career offensive season so another scoring burst from him seems unlikely. McDermott might not even be in the starting five next season, so the secondary scoring role will fall to either Johnson, Vassell, Primo, Walker, or an unnamed free agent or draft acquisition. 

Lonnie Walker has shown he can be a brilliant offensive presence at times, but his overall consistency is still questionable at best. On top of that, it seems unlikely he will join the starting lineup with Murray and Johnson, so his hat can be taken out of contention.

Primo is taking time to develop, which is not a knock against him. I expect him to come off the bench next season as well, and the slow progress he has been making might be indicative of what a potential lottery pick this summer will go through, so even if the Spurs manage to get a star like Jaden Ivey, Paulo Banchero, or Chet Holmgren, expect them to be the fourth or fifth option within the offense in 2023. 

The Biggest threat to replace Keldon in scoring

The main threat to take Keldon Johnson’s role on offense is Devin Vassell. Both can hit big shots, play solid defense, and get themselves to the hoop at will. Having two players like that play side by side is not a bad thing, but one will get more shots than the other.

It’s my belief that Keldon Johnson will maintain his second-option role over Vassell moving forward, and maybe for a while. Vassell has not taken the shooting leap expected this season, and Johnson takes fewer shots but makes more overall, which does not bode well for Vassell. 

On top of that, Johnson is listed at 6’6” and Vassell is 6’5”, but Johnson has a lot more weight and muscle. Allegedly, Johnson weighs 20 more pounds, but just by looking at them, it’s clear Johnson is more built and might have upwards of 35 pounds on Vassell. This will allow him to drive to the hoop and bang around in the post, which just leads to more shots and more points.

Luckily, the roster doesn’t seem too concerned with who gets to shoot and who scores more, but for the next couple of seasons, I expect Keldon Johnson to maintain his role. He’s taken shocking leaps this season, which we haven’t seen from any other Spur aside from Murray, and he’s shown flashes he can be a complete player who can jump from averaging 16 points this season to maybe being an 18 or 20 points per game guy next season.

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The primary option is not up for grabs with Murray around, and it looks like Johnson has the secondary role locked up for at least a couple of years.

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