Keon Johnson impressed in his single season as a Tennessee Volunteer. Under the direction of head coach Rick Barnes, Johnson helped lead the Vols to an 18-9 record. Alongside Jaden Springer, Tennessee was able to make a tournament appearance but lost to Oregon State in the First Round. Johnson has shown flashes on offense and brings an NBA-ready body to the 2021 NBA Draft. There is a lot to break down, both good and bad in this Keon Johnson NBA Draft Profile. Let’s get started.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 11, 2021
Athleticism and Explosiveness
The first thing that pops out about Keon Johnson’s game is his athleticism. He is explosive and quick and relies heavily on this part of his game to get points. He has the size and strength to capitalize on his elite athleticism as a two-guard and on the wing. At 6’5″ and 185lb, he could do with putting some muscle on as he transitions to the NBA. He has a quick first step that allows him to get to the key and into the paint. He can throw floaters or a quick pull-up jumper for two.
He isn’t afraid to jump to the rim and he should have one of the best verticals at the draft combine. Johnson is the type of player you don’t want to be standing in front of on a fast break. When he goes up, players take notice and usually get out of the way, if they can.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 7, 2021
Alongside Jaden Springer, the two were one of the best guard combos in the nation last season. His athleticism doesn’t just help on offense, he uses it to maximize his efforts on defense as well. With length at his position and elite quickness, Johnson gets in passing lanes and tips balls, leading to transition baskets for his team.
Free Throw Shooting
Johnson doesn’t show a crazy high free throw percentage, and could actually improve it quite a bit in the NBA. He hit just over 70% of his foul shots on the season, but he attempted almost four per game. I could see him putting on more muscle and really capitalizing on his athleticism and size to get to the free-throw line and draw fouls from frustrated defenders. If he improves his free-throw percentage just to 75% he could become a problem for some teams to defend.
Like I mentioned above, Johnson could become a problem from the charity stripe, and that wouldn’t take too much of a change to his game in my opinion. However, his three-point shooting is going to have to improve if he wants to survive in the league. He only took 1.8 attempts per game from deep and averaged just 0.5 made threes. That’s 27.1%. There will be NBA scouts who would like to see him take a larger sample size, and he may come into his own. I don’t know how easy that will be with what we saw from him in college.
There are plenty of guards who rely on their athleticism and quickness to get buckets in the NBA. Those players have also by and large adapted to shooting decently from three. The NBA as a whole has adapted at every position, in all reality. So if Johnson is to have a long career in the modern NBA he will need to come around on his shooting.
NBA Draft Comparison: Ron Artest/Metta World Peace
Keon Johnson has gotten this comparison a lot, even before college. His game is pretty similar to a young Artest. Johnson is not nearly the same muscular build as Metta World Peace, but when it comes to using elite athleticism to get what you want on offense and defense, there aren’t many other comparisons that make nearly as much sense. There are some that try to make comparisons to Kawhi Leonard, maybe a guy like Steve Francis, but those players see/saw the court a lot better than Johnson does. Perhaps his ceiling is a smaller version of Jaylen Brown.
Comparisons across eras rarely make 100% matchups, but I believe the young Artest/Metta comparison is fair. I expect Johnson to adapt to the modern game and be a solid lottery pick in the upcoming draft. He is a modern guard in a modern guard’s body and should find a role early in his career. Where he goes from there depends on his development in the league.