Height: 6’6” Weight: 216 Wingspan: 6’9” Age:19 College: Kentucky Hometown: Chesterfield, Virginia
Keldon Johnson is one of the toughest and most competitive players in the draft. He can help a team with his toughness and defense. If he continues to gain confidence on his shot he can become a very good 3 and D player. He could develop into a great small ball 4. He averaged 17.5 points per 40 for a loaded Kentucky team. That is a low number, but he is not going to be drafted for his scoring. He’s not very shifty with the ball in his hands, and is more of a straight line driver at this point. He’s a pretty smart player, but has very average vision and had a 1.1 A/to ratio. The main way he will help his team is with his energy and effort.
Johnson is one of the best defenders in the draft. He’s very good on the ball, and solid off the ball as well. He can guard 1-4, and I would say some 5’s also because of his strength. That is important in switching schemes, which many NBA teams run. He’s very physical and plays with elite effort. I believe he’s best as a small ball 4, and when taller players try to post him up, he does a great job of holding his ground because his strength. He’s great at guarding wings, but not great at guarding super quick point guards yet. He doesn’t have the quickness you’d expect from a lockdown defender, so he will struggle to stay in front of elite guards. Despite that weakness, he should be very good defending wings in the NBA.
Johnson will spend almost all his time in the NBA off the ball. He’s a solid spot up player and was in the 81st percentile last year. He does need to work on his confidence in his three ball. He shot in the 38th percentile but still isn’t that confident. He’s not as good of a shooter as the percentage suggests, he only made 1.6 threes per 40 minutes, but he is still a solid shooter. In spot up situations he only takes a no dribble jumper 41% of the time for 1.293PPP. His total spot up efficiency was 1.083PPP, so this shows he would likely be more efficient in spot ups overall if he shot more spot up jumpers. He’s good at catching with his feet in the air and getting downhill and attacking the rim on a straight line. If he shoots more teams will be forced to close out harder on him, and it will be even easier for him to get downhill.
Johnson was in the 48th percentile as a finisher last year, But he is a better finisher than the numbers suggest. There was a lot of traffic in the lane because of Kentucky’s lack of floor spacing, so there were always bigs in the lane contesting his finishes hard. He is capable of using both hands, but definitely is better with his right. He plays through contact very well. He has a good runner, and is in the 72nd percentile with it. Runners are good versus length so it’s good he has confidence in it. Despite that he’s good at it, I think he takes too many runners. Runners are not an efficient shot, and even though he was in the 72nd percentile that only equated to .897PPP which is a win for the defense. Even though Johnson isn’t an elite shooter off screens (like most good off screen players), he is actually a very effective off screen player. He was in the 74th percentile, and I actually think if used right he’s even better than that number shows. He gets shoulder to shoulder every time, and is great at reading his defender. The reason I like him so much coming off his screens is his ability to curl. Not only will he get easy shots off the curl, but the screeners man will have to help which will get the screener an open jump shot. It would be smart to have a good shooter set screens for Johnson.
Johnson doesn’t have a great ceiling, but is a pretty safe pick with a high floor. His defense is reliable, and at worst he will be a defender and energy player off the bench. It is likely that he becomes a little more confident and becomes a 17-25 minute 3 and D role player off the bench, or a low-end starter. If he becomes a great shooter he could be an above average starter, but not all star level player. I like his attitude, and toughness, and this will help the culture of whatever team drafts him. He reminds me of Jae Crowder. He’s a little smaller so he will probably be a little worse, but like Jae I think he is a great a small ball 4, and brings a lot to the table with his defense and competitiveness while being able to hit open jump shots.