Since the 2018 recruiting class was finalized, everyone has known that Keldon Johnson was likely to be the top player on this Kentucky Wildcats team taken in the 2019 NBA Draft. In fact, virtually every mock draft has listed him as a lottery pick throughout the season.
Johnson is third on the team in scoring (13.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.8 rebounds), but he has shown his ability to take over in flashes throughout the season. Johnson’s size, athleticism, and energy have always been his greatest assets. But he has not proven himself to be a consistent contributor.
Sporting News spoke with some NBA Scouts recently that identified six players with a lot to prove in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson is the only member of the Wildcats that came up during that discussion.
A few of the scouts believe that Johnson has “hit a wall” this season, and looking at his five games they may be right. He has been shooting just over 36% from the floor and only 17% from deep during that span. Coincidentally, perhaps, those are also the games that Reid Travis has missed with injury.
“He looks fatigued to me,” one scout told Sporting News. “He is undersized. He needs to bulk up more, and it looks to me like he just gets some bad tics in his jumper when he is tired and it costs him. He has a really great, tight stroke on his jumper when he is right, but you can see the elbows flare out a little, things get looser when he is in a bad stretch. That’s fatigue.”
While there is some doubt that Johnson could slide down out of the lottery portion of the draft, at least one scout believes that he still has the potential to almost crack the top five.
“He’s a top-15 pick, but he still has a shot to go six, seven, eight, somewhere in there.”
Johnson is still shooting over 46% from the floor on the year and 38.4% from behind the three-point line. He has shown the ability to finish at the rim and hit mid-range jumpers and runners. He has also made some clutch free throws down the stretch.
An eruption by Johnson in the NCAA Tournament would certainly take the load off of PJ Washington, who has carried this team through much of the conference season. It could also secure him a spot in the top ten of the NBA Draft.