Where has Keldon Johnson's shot gone?

San Antonio Spurs, Keldon Johnson
San Antonio Spurs, Keldon Johnson / Elsa/GettyImages

After his second season in the NBA–and his first as a full-time starter–it looked like the San Antonio Spurs had landed the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft. Johnson was playing a bruising style of basketball that made fans jump to their feet, but he was only shooting 33% from deep. 

Not to worry! Keldon Johnson was drafted 29th overall and was not known as a shooter during his time at Kentucky, so fans thought he would be a solid role player who would never be considered a three-level scorer. Then he absolutely broke out last season, shooting an insane 39.8% from three on high volume. He finished 27th in the entire league, which was shocking. 

Why has Keldon regressed his shot?

This season, fans expected him to continue to light it up from behind the three-point line, but in his first 20 games, he only shot 36% from deep on roughly the same number of shots. In his last ten games, he is averaging 5.5 shots from behind the arc but only makes 31% of them. What happened? 

For starters, the Spurs lost Chip Engelland this summer to the Thunder. The shot doctor, Engelland, developed Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili into legitimate threats from deep. It looked like he had his methods working with Johnson, who was emerging as a legitimate three-point shooter and was on his way to being one of the best scorers in the league

Maybe with Engelland gone, Johnson hasn’t had a consistent voice tweaking his shot and making sure that he is sticking to the proper fundamentals. Maybe that’s why we are yet to see Jeremy Sochan take a leap as a scorer.

Coaching changes have affected shooting

In preparation for this article, I watched Johnson’s first game this season against the Hornets and his most recent against the Kings. I noticed two new movements in his shot. For starters, Johnson is now bringing the ball all the way to his waist when he catches the ball before he hoists up a shot. He used to shoot from his chest, which allowed for a quicker release, giving him more space between his defender. 

He is also now crossing his right foot over his left when he jumps into his shot, which could affect his balance or sway his shots from right to left. If his center of balance is moving mid-air, that can’t be good for the trajectory of the ball. 

All in all, I’m not very optimistic that his shot will start to fall this season unless he reverts back to his shooting motion from last year. I’m not a film expert, but I instantly noticed those two small changes. 

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There is no chance that Johnson finishes the season shooting 40% from deep, but maybe we can chalk this up as a down year and hope he roars back in 2023-24. After all, Doug McErmdott had a bad shooting season in 2021, and he has soundly remained an excellent shooter during his stint with the Silver and Black.