After having spent part of the summer playing with Team USA, San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson could be in for a big 2021-22 season. That bodes well for the Spurs, who will need him to emerge as a third scoring option or risk being among the league's worst offensive teams next season.
While perhaps hard to imagine, San Antonio ranked just 21st in offense last season and saw three players who roughly averaged a combined 44 points per game leave in free agency. This sets up Johnson to step into a bigger role. After all, more minutes and more shots are the usual ingredients for a breakout season, and he certainly appears poised to have one. With that, let's explore my prediction for Johnson's potential stat line for next season.
Keldon Johnson will average 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game on 48.5/36/78 shooting for the Spurs next season
Last season, Johnson averaged a solid 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in just 28.5 minutes per game. With an increase in minutes and opportunity, I believe Johnson will see his averages jump to 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 32.6 minutes per game next season. Johnson proved surprisingly efficient as an offensive player last season by primarily scoring off of spot-ups, backdoor cuts, and attacking closeouts.
While that will still be a part of his game next season, he'll also have the opportunity to incorporate new aspects to his offensive repertoire. For instance, he's flashed the ability to use ball screens to create for himself. That skill was developed during his rookie season when he spent significant time in the G League playing with the ball in his hands.
That experience could help him next season, allowing him to create more for himself. Additionally, when paired with Jakob Poeltl, who’s among the league’s best screen setters, and presumably with better shooting in the starting lineup, Johnson could thrive.
In fact, I feel he could develop into a capable slasher given his size, strength, and ability to finish strong at the rim. He could also use those screens to take more pull-up jumpers after shooting an impressive 52.1% on mid-range shots last season. Factor in the potential for him to develop into a post-up option, and Johnson may be able to effectively score in a number of different ways next season.
With players like DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay now gone, Johnson will likely see a lot more time at power forward, providing him with additional opportunity. While only 6-5, he plays bigger than his size and thus would allow San Antonio to play small without being at a disadvantage. Johnson’s rebounding will also come in handy in those lineups, given that he’s a solid rebounder for a wing, particularly on the offensive glass.
He relentlessly pursues his own misses at the rim and also sneaks in from the perimeter to box out and put back misses from teammates. In fact, with a 4.9 % offensive rebound percentage, Johnson compares favorably to former Spur Kawhi Leonard, who’s among the best wing rebounders in the NBA.
His defensive rebounding can also be useful, giving the team another grab-and-go option and allowing the Spurs to get out in transition quicker. On defense, he’ll likely continue to improve upon his already solid play, possibly even learning from his experience defending some of the league's best players in practice this summer.
Overall, as the Spurs likely 3rd option, Johnson will have plenty of chances to be more assertive on offense. As a result, I expect his average number of shots to jump from 10.2 to 14.2 shots per game next season. Additionally, I expect him to emerge as a formidable offensive option as well as improving as a defender, making him a legit two-way threat.
We’ll have to wait and see whether he can live up to these projections. However, given his potential and rapid improvement, I believe these expectations are certainly obtainable for Johnson next season.