Keon Johnson is a slashing wing with explosive leaping ability and very high potential on the defensive end. The Clippers moved up in the draft to select Johnson with the 21st overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, trading the draft rights to Quentin Grimes (no. 25 pick) and the Pistons’ 2024 second-round pick to the Knicks. The former Tennessee Volunteer should eventually help the Clippers with two of their weaknesses: pick-and-roll defense and transition offense.
This past season at Tennessee, Johnson started 17 of 27 games, including the last 16. In his only season as a Volunteer, he averaged 11.3 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting, 27.1 percent from three and 70.3 percent from the free-throw line to go along with 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. All in all, his numbers were not overly impressive, but he flashed great potential nearly every game.
|Wingspan:||6’7”||Vertical:||48” max, 41.5” standing|
|Shot Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
Johnson is an explosive leaper. He posted the highest standing vertical (41.5 inches) and a record-breaking max vertical of 48 inches at the NBA Combine. He uses that vertical to attack the rim and hang in the air to adjust on contested layups. He also uses it to posterize defenders; just ask Georgia’s Toumani Camara.
Johnson’s overall offensive game is far from polished, but he has some tools in his bag. He can punish defenses on cuts to the rim, especially on back-door alley-oops. The freshman also boasts nice turnaround fadeaway and up-and-under moves, which helped him average 0.882 points per possession on post-ups (60th percentile) this season. He has a very quick first step, and after watching film, he looks quicker than he tested at the Combine. He can also change speeds effectively, but is limited to mainly straight-line drives.
Johnson’s three-point percentage is obviously a concern, but there are reasons to believe that he can improve on that. He has a smooth stroke, but his feet are a little narrow on his takeoff, throwing off his balance at times. He also is deliberate off the catch, which is a problem when he is guarded. On the other hand, the Knoxville native has a high release and good elevation on his jumpers, making them very hard to block. Johnson is also very good from the midrange, ranking at the 74th percentile (0.875 PPP) on half-court jumpers from 17 feet to the 3-point line, so he should be able to expand his range.
Johnson is not the greatest playmaker, but he showed improvement as the season progressed. In three of his last eight games, he recorded at least five assists, averaging 3.1 per game over that stretch. He also showed promise as a pick-and-roll handler throughout the season, ranking at the 53rd percentile for PPP, including the results of passes, and at the 81st percentile for the results of passes (derived offense). On the flipside, the Tennessee product will definitely want to work on improving his handle and reducing turnovers. In 14 of his 27 career games, he recorded at least three turnovers, including five games with five or more. Johnson is more of a scoring guard than a playmaking one, but giving the opposing team three-plus or even five-plus extra possessions will not be acceptable at the next level. His ball handling could be improved, and if he does so, it’ll be a lot easier for him to get to the rim and create space for himself.
Johnson could have the biggest impact as a defender at the next level. His high motor is a big plus on the defensive end, and makes up for some of his deficiencies. He moves well laterally, has great recovery speed, does a good job at getting through screens, and is an overall pesky defender. If he gets beat, he does his best to contest the shot, and he makes some very emphatic chase-down blocks. He even had a block with his back turned against Mississippi State. He is one of the better players in this class as a help defender as well, which must be something Tennessee preaches because his freshman counterpart Jaden Springer showed similar qualities in that regard.
I believe Johnson will highly profit from playing for the Clippers. He is a player who I could really see benefitting from playing with veteran players willing to mentor and push him, and what better guys to do that than Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Johnson has the athletic ability to be a great player in this league on both ends of the floor, and I think being traded to the Clippers is one of the best-case scenarios for the young man.
- Highly explosive athlete with verticals of 41.5 inches standing and 48 inches max, and a three-quarter court sprint time of 3.0.
- Very good cutter; ranked at the 80th percentile with 1.375 points per possession.
- Good post-up player, especially for a guard; ranked at the 60th percentile (0.882 PPP).
- Very good shooter from mid-range; ranked at the 74th percentile (0.875 PPP).
- Defensive upside due to athleticism and hustle:
- Plays with energy, effort, and awareness.
- Ranked 9th in the SEC with a defensive rating of 93.5.
- Excellent tracking off the ball, ranking at the 90th percentile for PPP allowed on off-screen plays.
- Good spot-up defender; ranked at the 62nd percentile for PPP allowed as an overall spot-up defender (0.843 PPP), at the 81st percentile when guarding spot-up dribble jumpers (0.545 PPP), and at the 89th percentile when guarding spot-up drives (0.6 PPP).
- Has potential to be deadly in transition, but the numbers in college weren’t there, mainly due to an extremely high turnover rate (26%).
- Gets to the free-throw line regularly, drawing fouls on 15 percent of his possessions and averaging 3.7 FTA per game.
- Loose handle and high turnover rate; turned the ball over on 20 percent of his possessions.
- Needs to improve as a shooter, which would open up more driving opportunities; shot only 27.1 percent from deep, and on half-court shots, ranked at the 37th percentile for PPP on guarded catch-and-shoot attempts, and at the 27th percentile on off-dribble attempts.
- Not a dynamic ball handler, and struggles to score off the bounce; ranked below the 42nd percentile for PPP in both pick-and-roll and isolation situations.
- More muscle and weight would help him on both ends of the court, especially around the basket.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Stats used in our scouting reports come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.