Stats: 13.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 46.1% FG
While there are certainly some promising guard/wing-type prospects in this draft, Johnson has arguably the most NBA-ready body of them all. According to NBAthlete.com, which has tracked data from NBA Combine since 2000, Johnson has some of the best measurements in height (6-6, 88th percentile), wingspan (6-9, 78th percentile), weight (216 lbs, 92nd percentile), hand size (9.25 inches, 84th percentile) and standing reach (8-8, 94th percentile). (h/t to OPP for the find)
We often saw these physical traits put to use as Johnson bullied defenders on his way to the rim and showed the ability to finish with contact on a consistent basis. However, we also saw that lead to a lot of charges drawn by opponents, something Johnson will have to learn to control better in the pros.
While not viewed as one of his biggest strengths coming into the season, Johnson stepped up in a big way for a Kentucky team that was lacking proven shooters coming into the season. That was on full display in Kentucky’s win over eventual-No. 1 seed North Carolina in the Champions Classic.
That was actually part of a two-game stretch (Utah included) in which Johnson hit 10 of 14 from deep. When he’s hot, he’s as good of a shooter as you’ll find in this class.
Problem is, Johnson became very erratic in this regard. He ended up hitting just two of his last 10 three-pointers before Kentucky’s season ended. He still finished the year hitting 38.1% from deep.
Keldon Johnson’s freshman campaign as a Wildcat was quite frankly a roller coaster ride to the finish. Some moments made the case for Johnson to be locked in as a top-10 draft choice (see Kentucky vs. Tennessee Round 1), but others warranted an APB for his whereabouts on the basketball court.
Nonetheless, Johnson’s upside as a prospect have him floating throughout the first round of this week’s NBA Draft with a ceiling that could indeed reach the lottery. However, most should be cautioned as that it’s more realistic for Kentucky’s third-leading scorer from last season to just miss out on the lottery and fall somewhere between the 15th and 20th selections.
Many basketball followers are manipulated by Bowen’s significance with the San Antonio Spurs and his contribution to their NBA championships. While the 6’7 forward played a key role on those teams, he also averaged just 6.1 PPG for his career and never eclipsed 8.2 PPG for a season.
Despite his lack of effort in stuffing the stat sheet, Bowen did his team a favor by contributing his work ethic on the defensive end of the court while also making timely shots from behind the arc. For Bowen, his NBA career seemed to take place in the perfect scenario.
Could Johnson’s end up being the same?
Porter is probably better than Bowen, he’s just played for the dysfunctional Washington Wizards and rebuilding Chicago Bulls for his career. The sixth-year forward did earn a hefty contract, though, not just by hitting the market at the right time but also boasting the ideal skill set every team dreams of.
Realistically, Johnson holds that same skill set and has a ceiling that many scouts view to be the sky. However, Johnson’s inability to play 40 minutes of consistent basketball could hold him back from achieving that prestige.
Only time will tell if a team will find the next Otto Porter in this draft.
The Pistons were swept in blowout fashion against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of this year’s NBA Playoffs. While it was in large part a testament to the Bucks being the best regular season team in basketball, there also was a shallow depth of talent on the wing for Detroit.
As the 15th selection, Johnson can immediately join the team and win the starting job as the team’s small forward. Against Eastern Conference wings like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, Johnson’s defense will be an attractive asset on draft night.
It also helps that opposing defenses will focus heavily on stopping Pistons big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in the paint, which could really open up the wing for Johnson to do damage from.
After shipping Taurean Prince to the Brooklyn Nets for draft capital, Atlanta is currently starting Vince Carter (drafted in 1998) at small forward. Again, for reasons listed above, Johnson’s defensive potential is intriguing in this spot.
However, so is the situation of the team. With Detroit paying big-time money to both Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, the organization is currently in a win-now mode. Atlanta, though, has a roster full of young talent and is still 1-2 years away from competing for a playoff spot. Inserting Johnson to play frequent minutes and learn from a first ballot Hall of Famer makes sense for the organization.
I’m going with the Detroit Pistons via the 15th overall pick. With the recent buzz that Johnson won’t make it to pick No. 18, the Pistons seem like the likeliest landing spot if he doesn’t go in the lottery. They would give Johnson a chance to have a major role for a team capable of making it back to the NBA playoffs.