Warriors Draft Profiles: Keon Johnson

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The Warriors are in a unique spot with not one, but two lottery picks, and they’re not your typical lottery team. The Warriors have legitimate championship aspirations for next season and as long as Stephen Curry is lacing them up for the Warriors that should be their goal. As currently constructed, the Warriors have 13 players on the roster, but with 4 of those 13 roster spots being non-guaranteed, they have plenty of roster room to work with.

At pick number seven, ideally you draft a player with a high-ceiling, but considering the Warriors championship hopes, they may opt to take a guy with a little bit lower of a ceiling that they think they can plug in and play right away; however, I think they can get the best of both worlds with Keon Johnson, guard/wing out of the University of Tennessee.

Although Johnson’s numbers don’t jump off the charts, in his lone season at Tennessee he averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 44.9% from the field, 27.1% from 3, and 70.3% from the free throw line. He showed tons of flashes during his time at Tennessee, and the 19-year-old is already ahead of the curve on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensive fit: Johnson definitely has more question marks on the offensive side of the ball than he does defensively, but I think the Warriors talent mixed with their system can do a good job of masking what he struggles with on offense and highlight the areas that he currently excels in. Johnson is a smart cutter off the ball and a good, explosive finisher around the rim. Playing with passers like Steph, Draymond Green, and Juan Toscano-Anderson he should find himself on the receiving end of a lot of good looks around the rim in the half court.

He’s inevitably going to get open catch and shoot looks from deep in the Warriors system which he’ll likely struggle knocking down early in his career. He took just 48 threes in 27 games last season and while he didn’t always look comfortable shooting from beyond the arc, his form isn’t bad and Johnson is said to be a hard worker, so I don’t see any reason why can’t, at the very least, develop into a respectable shooter, especially in catch and shoot situations.

Johnson is still a little bit raw in this area, but he has shown the ability to attack the rim off the bounce and also has a nice pull up game inside the arc. His ability to attack off the bounce can help him not settle for catch and shoot threes and instead put the ball on the floor and make a play going towards the rim.

He certainly won’t be a guy that teams look to run off the 3-point line early in his career, but as he develops his shot and tightens his handle it will make it that much easier for him to get to the rim and get those mid-range pull ups that I think could eventually become a lethal part of his game. Playing next to Steph and within the Warriors system, he won’t be asked to do too much offensively early on in his career and the Warriors can afford to slowly develop his offensive skills.

The Warriors were tied for the second highest pace in the league last year, and with Johnson’s athleticism and finishing ability he should be able to excel on the break both with the ball in his hands and also filling the lanes where his record breaking 48-inch vertical should be on full display. His potential is truly off the charts and he projects as a slasher early on in his career that I think could develop into a shot creator and high level shot maker inside the arc.

 Defensive fit: Defensively he’s really advanced for a 19-year-old who only spent one season in college. Johnson is a tenacious on-ball defender who excels at sliding his feet and staying in front of ball handlers. He also has a knack for getting steals by playing the passing lanes and is good at digging down on drivers and knocking the ball loose. Johnson is good at navigating screens both on and off the ball and I think he’ll be quick to learn NBA defensive schemes as he already has good fundamentals and you can tell he loves playing defense.

Standing at just a hair under 6’5, and what may sound like a slight frame at about 185 pounds, opposing players often times struggled when trying to post Johnson up and while players in the NBA are stronger, more skilled, and more athletic than the opponents he was facing in college, I think he projects as a player that can guard 1-3 and certainly hold his own when switched onto bigger players.

As mentioned earlier, Johnson broke the record at the NBA combine with a 48-inch vertical and is about as explosive as any athlete you’ll find. His athleticism, instincts, and motor should allow him to excel on this side of the ball from day one and that’s not always something you can say about young players. He has an old school attitude and a high motor that I think would mesh really well with the culture Steph, Klay Thompson, Draymond, and Steve Kerr have helped build in Golden State over the years.

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