Why Keldon Johnson could be the San Antonio Spurs’ next star

Keldon JohnsonCredit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Keldon JohnsonCredit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs recently signed forward Keldon Johnson to a contract extension, ensuring that their best player is now locked up for five seasons. That could prove to be a worthwhile investment for the San Antonio Spurs, especially if he’s able to make another big jump next season and emerge as a star.

The talent is definitely there, and he has two key attributes that should help him maximize his potential. He has a strong work ethic and a bulldog mentality. Not every player has those attributes, but he does, and he’ll have the opportunity to grow his game now that Dejounte Murray is gone.

Keldon Johnson can make the leap into stardom for the San Antonio Spurs next season

Johnson averaged an impressive 17 points and 6.1 rebounds in his third season and should be even better next year. After all, the Spurs aren’t expected to be very good, and he’s the closest thing the team has to a number one option. That new role could come with some growing pains since teams will focus on him more than ever before, and he has limited experience as a primary ballhandler.

It could be ugly early, but he should figure things out quickly and prove the Spurs were right to have faith in him. Just last season, Murray made the jump from being the second option to an All-Star in a matter of months, and Johnson could soon do the same. Actually, Johnson has a big advantage over Murray in that he’s a terrific shooter, drilling nearly 40% of his 5.3 3-point attempts last season.

That allowed him to be an offensive threat when playing off the ball, and he was able to use the threat of his shot to attack closeouts.  Moreover, his big frame helps him dish out punishment when he drives and he definitely lives up to his “Big Body,” nickname.

That type of reckless abandon has been effective, but teams started to catch on, forcing him to change things up. As a result, Johnson developed counters, including adding a euro-step, a floater, a stutter step, and spin moves. Those add-ons were part of the reason why his scoring average jumped more than four points per game last season, and it shows that he’s constantly working on his game.

Based on that, it’s fair to assume he’s working on other parts of his game in preparation for next season, including ballhandling. Creating more for himself, and others, in the pick and roll is something he did more of late last season, and showed plenty of promise in that area.

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The Spurs will need a lot more of that next year given the team’s lack of shot creation on their current roster. If he can make strides as a playmaker, Johnson can take advantage of an increase in usage rate and have another career season. It remains to be seen if he’ll improve enough to become the Spurs’ next star but considering he’s this good at just 22 years old, he very well could be.