Just four games into the San Antonio Spurs’ seeding schedule, rookie Keldon Johnson has already set a new career high in scoring in back-to-back games.
First, Johnson scored 15 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, then by Wednesday, Johnson scored 20 points against the Denver Nuggets.
Though he didn’t play much prior to the shutdown of the season, nine games to be exact, what’s interesting about Johnson’s scoring is that he’s doing it off of reads and after the initial action on most possessions.
Watch the film below of his 20 points and 2 assists against the Nuggets, and how on most of the points scored, he’s either receiving a pass from another Spur first after the initial offensive set, or he’s driving by his opponents when he sees an opening to finish near the rim.
As you can see, Johnson is scoring without having plays run for him in the halfcourt like some of the Spurs’ other guards and wing players.
What’s been a highlight so far for Johnson in bubble play is his 3-point shooting. He’s now shooting 6-of-9 from three in bubble play and 8-of-14 overall (57%) from three in 13 NBA games.
79% of Johnson’s 3-point attempts have been wide open this season and he’s shooting 45% on those wide open 3-pointers.
“He’s shooting the ball a little bit better than I expected,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich of Johnson’s outside shooting after the game against Denver.
This is a small sample size, and could be looked at in two different ways: 1) perhaps his shooting got even better during the offtime from the shutdown if he worked on it, or 2) it’s just a small sample size, since he shot 23 of 93 (25%) in the G-League this season.
When you look at his shot selection, Johnson focuses on taking the two most valuable shots in the NBA – shots near the rim and from three.
Paint: 68% of shots
3PT: 23% of shots
Mid-Range: 8% of shots
Johnson’s defense is already one of his strengths and so far in his rookie year, his offense is continuing to grow game by game, and this is without the Spurs making him an initiator on offense yet.
Normally when a player is out on the floor for their defense, they’re not contributing much in scoring and assisting. Johnson is starting to learn how to create points for himself and his teammates in his time on the floor.
Look at the progression he’s made in points created per minute (points + assist points divided by minutes) as the bubble games have gone along:
vs Kings: 0.40 points created per minute (last among 10 players)
vs Grizzlies: 0.36 points created per minute (7th among 10 players)
vs 76ers: 0.77 points created per minute (4th among 11 players)
vs Nuggets: 0.96 points created per minute (4th among 11 players)
Through the next four games and then if the Spurs make the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see how much Johnson’s offensive game develops in Orlando.
Whenever the Spurs start running plays for him in the future, that could be where his game goes to another level depending on how his offense develops.
For now, just being in his rookie year, he’s already showing he’s able to score without even being a primary option.