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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Keldon Johnson, University of Kentucky

The Kentucky guard might be a good Jazz fit, but will he be available at 23?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Keldon Johnson - Kentucky

Small Forward, 6’6, 215 lbs, 19 years old

46.1 FG%, 38.1 3P%, 70.3 FT%

30.7 MIN 13.5 PTS 5.9 REB 1.6 AST 0.8 STL 1.6 TOV

Keldon Johnson is another one-and-done prospect from traditional Super Freshman school Kentucky. In 2018-19 Johnson started 36 games for the Wildcats, helping the team to another Final Four appearance. After the season, Johnson was named SEC Rookie of the Year and was placed on the SEC all-rookie team and the All-SEC second team.

The Jazz may not have a chance to select Johnson, if prospect rankings from around the web are anything to go on. He ranks 20 on ESPN, 18 on CBS Sports, 11 on Bleacher Report and 21 on Sports Illustrated, meaning there’s a good chance Johnson is taken before Utah selects at 23, barring draft night movement.

Strengths

Johnson was a near 40% 3-point shooter in 2018-19, sitting at 38.1%, although I would like to see him get his attempt rate up, as he shot just over 3 attempts per game. He’s a good rebounder for his size and position, grabbing nearly six per game from the back court. He’s also a good finisher at the rim, though he doesn’t get to the line often at just over 4 free throw attempts per game.

Weaknesses

Johnson isn’t much of a playmaker. His assist rate is low and his assist to turnover ratio is 1:1. Not good. As I mentioned before, I would like to see him become more of a shooter. If you can make 3s at a nearly 40% clip, you should be shooting more than three of them per game. There were streaks this season where Johnson would go 3 or 4 games in a row shooting 1 or 2 attempts from behind the arc. The Jazz already have a number of reluctant shooters, adding another player with a penchant for passing up the easy shot for a tougher one later on might not be the answer in this draft.


Q&A with Jason Marcum of A Sea of Blue

I spoke with Jason Marcum from SB Nation’s Kentucky site A Sea of Blue. He’s bullish on Keldon Johnson transitioning quickly to the NBA because of his NBA frame, but he’s going to struggle on something Utah values more than anything: defense. Responses are Jason’s.

What strengths of Keldon Johnson will translate well to the NBA?

Keldon already has an NBA-ready body, as he was one of the most physically-gifted players in the Class of 2018, and he’s as hard of a worker as you’ll find. He should have an easier transition into the NBA in terms of the weight room and having his body ready for the grind of an NBA season.

Johnson was also a surprisingly good three-point shooter as a freshman, and some of his best performances came in Kentucky’s biggest games.

What weaknesses of Keldon will need to be improved in the NBA?

Johnson really struggled guarding on the perimeter last season. He doesn’t have the lateral quickness or fluidity in his hips to keep opposing guards from getting by him, and he doesn’t have enough length to contest shots at the rim when he’s beaten (he had just 6 blocks as a freshman).

Johnson also needs to work on not forcing the issue when it’s not there. He tries too hard at times to get his offense going, even if it means driving into a double team in the paint and turning it over or charging.

What role do you see Keldon being in the NBA?

I think Johnson will be a physical guard who can stretch the floor while bullying opposing guards in the paint, but he has a lot of work to do in order to become a good defender and a more complete offensive player.

Would you consider Utah a good landing spot for him?

Yes. Johnson needs to land with a team where he won’t be forced into a major role right away if he’s not ready. Utah has also been one of the best in the NBA at drafting and developing, and I think Johnson has a good chance at reaching his full potential with a franchise like Utah.

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