Talented freshman Keldon Johnson is primed to become the latest player to transition to the NBA after a short career under Head Coach John Calipari at Kentucky. Johnson, an energetic 19-year-old wing, has provided the Wildcats with 14.9 points per game in his first year in Lexington. Buoyed by his relentless motor, Johnson has been a dynamic playmaker in the open court for Kentucky this season.
Along with his own skills, Johnson’s NBA stock is bolstered by the position he plays. Teams are constantly on the hunt to add talent on the perimeter, and Johnson’s penchant for highlight-worthy plays will garner the attention of potential suitors. Despite possessing a skill set that is not yet completely polished, the Virginia native is set to hear his name called in the lottery on draft night.
If Johnson departs after one season with the Wildcats, here are three ideal landing spots for him in the NBA.
Motor City Revival
Outside of their solid post tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the Pistons are in desperate need of help on the wing. Adding Johnson to the mix would instantly give Griffin a desirable target for his accurate high-post passing.
Unfortunately, it appears Johnson won’t provide the Pistons with much-needed floor spacing early in his career. That being said, he has made strides to improve his outside shooting. Johnson is far from a high-volume shooter from beyond the arc, but he is currently connecting on a respectable 39 percent of his three-point shots this season.
The Pistons’ payroll is loaded with massive contracts beyond this season. If they hope to improve their wing rotation this summer, selecting Johnson would be a step in the right direction.
Knicks Draft Another Wildcat
After drafting Kevin Knox last year, the Knicks would be wise to consider selecting another Kentucky star. For this pick to work, Johnson’s stock would have to continue to rise and the Knicks would have to fall out of contention for the top pick. If some combination of those circumstances unfolds, a pairing of Johnson and Knox in transition would be an absolute nightmare for opposing teams.
Currently, Head Coach David Fizdale is willing to try out any combination of players with the Knicks. If Johnson lands in New York, it will give Fizdale a two-way threat worthy of a significant role. The Knicks would be wise to build around the athletic gifts of Kristaps Porzingis, Knox and Johnson.
Grizzlies Keep Their Pick, Draft Johnson
As part of a previous trade, the Grizzlies’ pick will go to the Celtics if it falls out of the top eight. If Memphis struggles down the stretch, Johnson would be a nice consolation prize in the draft. In the future, Johnson and Jaren Jackson Jr. have the potential to spark another era of strong results for the Grizzlies.
In the short term, General Manager Chris Wallace will be forced to pursue free agent wings with little financial flexibility if Marc Gasol decides to pick up his $25.6 million player option this summer. Even as a developing rookie, Johnson’s hustle would provide the veteran Grizzlies with a much-needed boost on the perimeter.