NBA Draft Watch: Record-Setting Wing Set to Work Out for Warriors

Keon Johnson

Getty Keon Johnson of Tennessee

With two lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft, the Golden State Warriors have a lot to think about within the next two weeks.

The Warriors still want to compete now, but adding two rookies to the roster might not be the best way to get back into the West’s elite. Rookies oftentimes need some time to adjust to the NBA level and further develop their game, so — compared to an experienced NBA player — their impact is not as effective right now.

That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if Golden State ended up trading either its No. 7 or No. 14 picks to acquire an experienced player who can help the Warriors win now.

However, it can be difficult to pass up on the young talent that the draft has to offer.

One of the draft prospects the Warriors could have a chance at selecting is Tennessee wing player Keon Johnson, who is among those working out for the Dubs this week.

The 19-year-old shooting guard/small forward is projected to be a mid- to late-lottery pick who has improved his draft stock thanks to his athleticism and potential. So the Warriors could have a chance to select the freshman at either lottery spot depending on how things play out.

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Johnson’s Background

Johnson comes to the NBA draft following one season at Tennessee. In his lone collegiate season, he played in 27 games — 17 of which were starts, as he joined the starting lineup in the latter half of the year.

His 11.3 points per game made him Tennessee’s second-leading scorer, and he shot 44.9% from the field. The freshman wing player also posted averages of 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 25.5 minutes. His play earned him the recognition of being named to the 2021 SEC All-Freshman team.

At the NBA Draft Combine, Johnson measured as 6-foot-3.5 without shoes and 6-foot-4.75 with shoes while weighing in at 184.8 pounds.

Johnson’s Game

The key selling points of Johnson’s game are his athleticism and defense.

Johnson was a standout at the combine thanks to his record-setting max vertical leap of 48.0 inches, besting the previous record set in 2001 by Kenny Gregory as reported by Rookie Wire. His standing vertical leap of 41.5 inches was also the best at this year’s combine.

That athleticism helps him as a scorer. Johnson often does his offensive work at, near or above the rim. James Ham at Yahoo Sports acknowledged this in-the-paint offensive play as one of Johnson’s strengths:

For now, he is a strong inline driver and aggressive finisher. He’s crafty around the rim and doesn’t have any problem leaping for highlight reel dunks amongst the trees.

Projected Top 10 Pick Keon Johnson Freshman Year Highlights at Tennessee!Keon Johnson's top plays from his freshman year at Tennessee, maybe he'll surprise us and come back for one more year! No copyright intended, I do not own any of the material in this video #nbadraft #nba #tennessee #tennesseebasketball #tennesseevols #keonjohnson2021-03-21T17:41:56Z

Combined with that athleticism, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area noted that Johnson’s basketball IQ will help him be able to contribute right away in the league despite his lack of experience:

Johnson’s strengths are visible as well as intellectual. His smarts, lateral quickness and preternatural savvy will allow him to immediately defend most NBA guards and some wings.

Johnson’s Limitations

Johnson isn’t much of a 3-point shooter, having connected on only 27.1% from long range in his lone season at Tennessee. However, he did attempt just 1.8 3-pointers per game. So he will need to work on his long-distance shooting and become more confident with it. Being on the same team as Stephen Curry could be just what he needs to improve in that area, having the opportunity to learn from one of the league’s best shooters.

At 19 years old with just one year of collegiate experience, he’s also young and needs to further develop his game — particularly as an offensive player.

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