Should Spurs be worried about a Keldon Johnson regression in 2023?

Keldon Johnson
Keldon Johnson / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

If all goes as expected next season, Keldon Johnson will average over 20 points per game as the San Antonio Spurs' leading scorer.

Of course, it's hard to know what to expect from the roster as presently constructed. With an average age under 24 years, one thing seems almost certain -- it's going to be an uphill battle all season long full of harsh learning lessons and hurried development.

By moving on from Dejounte Murray and extending Johnson for four years, the Spurs are betting on the 22-year-old to continue his remarkable improvement from season to season. In his fourth year, he'll need to be the best he's ever been if San Antonio is going to make any kind of noise in the near future, and there are plenty of signs he can get there.

Johnson already showed an incredible, out-of-nowhere leap in the perimeter shooting department, going from 33.1 percent in his sophomore year to 39.8 percent last season. Still, he struggled at times with tunnel vision on drives to the basket, something that might be magnified with the Spurs' best playmaker now gone.

Will attention from defenses cause an inevitable decline in Keldon?

Just as there are plenty of reasons to believe Keldon can continue to improve and even approach All-Star status, there are also reasons to be cautious. For one, we've yet to see him as a primary option on a team. Last season, we saw what Dejounte was able to do in that role, but that was after several years in the Spurs' system as a reliable role player.

Keldon is going to have to figure out how to continue his effective play without as many beautiful setups from his point guard. To combat that, he'll need to find ways to get to his spots and get his shot off quickly even with defenses paying more attention to him than they ever have.

Luckily, Johnson has something Murray still hasn't developed -- a reliable outside shot. Keeping that consistency will be crucial to unlocking the rest of his game. Maintaining a clip of nearly 40% from beyond the arc will make defenders run at Keldon, and from there, he'll have the option to drive and kick or take a closer shot near the basket.

There are going to be nights in which Keldon must be more of a facilitator than he is a scorer. Opponents know he's all about threes and layups, the latter of which can be slowed down by building walls in the paint area. It was a practice many teams used effectively to slow him down last season once they realized his shooting wasn't a fluke.

In the end, the only prediction I can safely make is Keldon probably won't shoot at a 40% rate from downtown next season. There will just be too many scouting reports on him and more available bodies to throw his way with Dejounte out of the picture. Still, he can maintain a serviceable enough percentage to open up the rest of the game for more development.

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Will Keldon regress in 2023? Maybe at times, but I'm thinking it'll be more of a bump in a road than a bright red stop sign.