The San Antonio Spurs have moved on from many previously critical players lately. First, it was a midseason trade to send Derrick White to the Boston Celtics. Next, Dejounte Murray was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks.
Even Lonnie Walker IV was ultimately allowed to move on from the Spurs after the team rescinded his qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
One player who will be a member of the Spurs for the long haul is Keldon Johnson. He agreed to a four-year, $74 million contract extension after producing a career year with averages of 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.
In a recent conversation with NBA Analysis Network, one league scout shared thoughts on Johnson amid all the changes the Spurs’ roster has undergone since the start of last season.
A significant area where Johnson made an impact last season was through his catch-and-shoot ability. He was 1-of-5 players to record at least 400 spot-up possessions and his output of 1.151 points per possession (PPP) led that group by a considerable margin.
“I’m curious to see how he handles more responsibility in the Spurs’ offense and adapts to having a downgrade in point guard play,” the scout said. “He was cashing out a ton on catch-and-shoot, but I’ d imagine the ball will be in his hands more now. How he reacts this season could be a big indicator of what his ceiling is.”
With Murray, White and Walker all gone, the Spurs no longer have players who accounted for 66.6 percent of their pick-and-roll ball handler possessions and 68.2 percent of their isolation plays. There’s a void to be filled and Johnson faces a prime chance to seize the moment.
“When you look at who the Spurs were relying on for a lot of their ball screens and DHOs early last season, they’re gone now,” the scout expanded.
Johnson did not fare nearly as well as a finisher or as an off the dribble shooter for the Spurs last season. Both of these are areas that must improve for him to display potential to emerge as a star player.
“Keldon does have plenty of room for growth in his game. He still needs to get better as a finisher and as a shot creator. … I can see him making real strides this season,” the scout explained. “There’s been flashes, but I’d like to see him with more reps then see where he’s at.”
The Spurs are in the early stage of an early rebuild. Johnson has a major chance to take a few steps forward as a player doing things that he otherwise didn’t receive many touches to do throughout games. If he capitalizes, it can genuinely change the trajectory of his NBA career.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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