Last year, Keldon Johnson took the San Antonio Spurs nation by storm when he showed his genuine potential as a knockdown shooter. He shot 39.8% from behind the arc and spent much of midseason leading the way. Fans were rightfully confused: how did he manage to increase efficiency while doubling the number of shots he took per game? And did he just catch lightning in a bottle?
In only two preseason games, he shot 4/10 from behind the arc, which suggested that he would maintain solid numbers this year. Granted, that is a small sample size, but it should suggest good things to come. In three games this season so far, Johnson is yet to score below 20 points and led the way as the Spurs shocked the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. He is averaging an insane eight attempts per game, is currently tied with Steph Curry for fourth in the league in attempts, and is sixth overall in makes, ahead of Curry, Buddy Hield, and Ja Morant.
On eight attempts per game, Keldon Johnson is shooting 41.7%
Not to get ahead of myself, because, again, the sample size is small, but that would have placed him in the top ten last season. Johnson has started the season with a hot hand, but fans have to wonder–will he be able to keep it up?
Honestly, I think he will. Before the All-Star break last season, he shot over 42% from deep and then cooled off in the back half a little bit. Keep in mind, in the back half of the season, the Spurs lost Derrick White to trade and Doug McDermott to injury, so there was increased defensive attention on Johnson. With Devin Vassell showing signs of promise as a shooter and the possibility of Josh Primo entering the starting rotation, Johnson should get his fair share of open looks, which he tends to knock down.
If Johnson can stay on the perimeter and knock down shots from assists, there is maybe no one in the league better at that than him. While the Spurs should cool down from their 2-1 start, I think Johnson can establish himself as one of the best shooters in the league.
Is this wishful thinking? Blind optimism? Maybe he has to come down to Earth eventually, but as of now, Johnson is the man, and he’s leading the Spurs to victories that were thought to be impossible.