NBA

What to expect from Keldon Johnson after extra time

ADVERTISEMENT

Do you think Keldon Johnson will play alongside a traditional power forward or alongside a combo forward next season?

Marilyn Dubinsky: With the additions of Isaiah Roby and Jeremy Sochan (whom I expect to spend little to no time in Austin), Spurs now have several traditional forwards to play alongside Keldon. As a result, I no longer see the need to force him into a position where he is constantly at a size disadvantage, so I see him playing alongside a traditional power forward at least 50% of the time, with the exception of when he shares the field with Doug McDermott or the Spurs choose to go for four or micro lineups.

Mark Barrington: I think Jeremy Sochan is the power forward of the future, and I don’t think Spurs are playing Keldon the big bucks for him to be consistently outplayed by much bigger players in the paint. In my opinion, the eventual plan is for him to play small forward. I mean, as far as there are even positions in modern basketball, it’s a wing/big combo, but it’s going to be more effective playing with two big classics – for rim protection on defense and a better rebound on both sides. But at the start of the season, I expect Keldon to be the starting striker until Sochan moves up to fourth, probably mid-season, depending on how careful Pop is with his rosters. . Roby is another viable option at PF, and he could be set to start on opening day, so it’s conceivable that Johnson will transfer to the three well before the mid-season.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bruno Passos: It looks like a toss up between bringing him back with him as a de facto 4 or inserting Isaiah Roby there and putting Johnson one spot down. Given the low stakes, I’m not sure I mind either way now that next season’s goals have changed. Start Roby and you get someone who can help them win on the boards while stretching the floor, but then you have at least three players between him, Johnson and Poeltl who aren’t great at creating shots. Start Johnson alongside McDermott or one of the young guards and you put a ceiling on defense again, but you can build on the style of play you’ve built over the past few years. You’re not necessarily set to win too many games anyway, but, as we’ve seen in moves this summer, that might not be as high a priority as it used to be.

Jesus Gomez: I have a feeling he’ll start the year playing next to McDermott – assuming Dougie isn’t traded – and end the year at small forward next to Sochan or Roby. In the first few months he could benefit from some continuity and play with a dangerous off-ball threat to distract the defence. Eventually, it should be a priority to move him down the wing and see if a pairing with a more traditional power forward can work, but it’s fine if done slowly since Spurs are in no rush now.

JR Wilco: For me, it all depends on Sochan’s ability to contribute. Another way of saying this is: it depends on how prepared the organization is to stink as the youngsters thrive in front of everyone in San Antonio rather than with a limited audience in Austin. If the kids play with the big club, then it will be KJ and Sochan. If it’s Austin, then we’ll have a replay of last season.

Do you think Johnson’s role will change drastically next season in terms of use and shot creation?

Dubinsky: Usage might not be too high, I don’t see him being the primary ball handler or the one who gets the ball downfield that often, but he could see a lot more plays drawn for him and be the finisher more often. If he can continue to develop his attacking game further while retaining the three-point touch he showed last season, he has a great opportunity to establish himself as Spurs’ go-to guy (which many defenses won’t understand). probably not to), and since it’s a rebuilding season, they’ll be more than happy to let him play and learn as he goes.

Barreton: There is so much turnover in the team that I expect everyone’s roles to change this season. I expect Pop to find out if Keldon can get the ball in his hands more on offense to lighten some of the load off of Primo being the primary ball handler. This is going to be a huge change in his role, so it will be interesting to see if he can develop that skill set. Hopefully he can become a better distributor while still tracking his score, because if he’s more of a threat as a passer, he’ll get more open shots, and he could be deadly on the pick and roll if the team can force defenders to guess who will end up with the rock.

Passes: I think some evolution would always have been the goal (or the hope) heading into next season, and we saw Spurs kick the tires on that early last year. They threw the ball at Johnson in the post for face-ups and isos and changed gears after limited returns, and I expect a bid to increase his role again this year. It’ll be interesting to see how much it resembles the previous approach or if they try to squeeze it into a few more pick-and-roll scenarios or other creative sets. With Murray and Walker gone, Johnson has no shortage of touches and eating opportunities.

Gomez: Someone is going to have to absorb some of the offensive possessions that went to Murray, and Johnson has as much sense as anyone for the job. He struggled with creation and vision at times last season, so I don’t know if making him a traditional focal point will make sense, but he should be fine if the playmakers find him when he’s already in. movement or if everyone spaces the ground when they catch the ball in the middle of the post and attack after a powerful dribble or a simple post movement. It might take him a while to get comfortable as a great ball handler, but if he can hone in on some of that Kyle Kuzma/Jalen Brown combination of aggression and physicality, he’ll might be able to increase the field percentage unaided. goals he gets.

Wilco: In a team that’s lost such a large percentage of their offense – in terms of utilization rate – since the opener last season, it would be really strange if a guy got the extension that KJ just signed and didn’t does NOT see its role radically changing. Then add the fact that he’s now a blind shooter, and I expect to see him star, or at least get a lot more hits.

True or false: Unless his defense improves significantly, Johnson will be overpaid once the extension goes into effect.

Dubinsky: Wrong, in the sense that being forced to keep traditional power forwards has consistently put him at a disadvantage in the past. We have yet to see what he does against players his size and if he has the speed to handle more perimeter defense. In my opinion, it is too early to judge his defensive ceiling since he does not even know yet in which position he will play. Even though he’s pretty much the same player as last season, his extension seems like the right price, and if he improves, it’ll be a bargain.

Barreton: Johnson’s defense will be greatly improved once he plays his true position. At a generously listed 6’5, he can’t defend players half a foot taller than him on the block. He’s a strong guy, but a guy 6’10” or taller can just shoot him or foul once he’s in the paint. He’ll struggle to protect faster players on the perimeter, but I think having a pair of big rim protectors like Poeltl and Sochan behind him will help erase the advantage players get if they get past him.

I don’t think the value of the contract is an issue anyway as his biggest achievement is the first year of a rebuilding season for Spurs. Since his contract is pre-loaded, the cap reached will be smaller each year and will look like a bargain over the past two years as the NBA’s salary cap continues to grow. I don’t think Keldon is particularly overpaid or underpaid; in fact, the total amount seems fair to me, but the way it is structured is very favorable to the competitiveness of the team in the last years of his contract.

Passes: I will say “false”, and only partly because I reject the premise of the question. If you really pushed me to ignore the fact that Spurs have a clean record and shouldn’t worry too much about the competition in 2023-24, I’d say Johnson will probably play more or less to his value through his shooting exterior and ability to pressure the rim, and trending in the right direction as a better-balanced player. But taking into account these factors and especially taking into account how the contract would be structured – only $74 guaranteed, declining salary – Johnson will get 6th or 7th man money and will peak as the league’s salary cap continues to rise, and that perspective should be factored into how the contract is viewed from the first days. I expect his defense to improve as he continues to learn the NBA game and as Spurs refine his role around his strengths and weaknesses, but even if he doesn’t huge progress there, he still has so many ways to improve offensively on the ball, as a finisher and maybe as a screen and short play that this signing should age pretty well.

Gomez: The contract is reasonable enough that as long as Keldon can hit outside shots, assist on the boards and get to the bucket semi-regularly, he won’t be overpaid. But for the contract to become a bargain, he will need to improve significantly on at least one end, and he simply has more room for improvement in defense. He’ll never be a stopper, but he should improve on the ball against guys who rely on strength rather than speed, and that’s all he’ll need to do to get right in between Devin Vassell and Jeremy. Sochan, assuming these two reach their defensive potential.

Wilco: I want to see him play great defense, and I’ll be disappointed if he can’t at least achieve what I would call strong defender status when the extension comes into effect. That said, I have a pretty high bar for using the term “overpaid” and I don’t think it’s likely to creep into that territory.

ADVERTISEMENT