|Freshman||6’6″ 211||Shooting Guard||Kentucky||DOB: 10/11/99|
|13.5 ppg||5.9 rpg||1.6 apg||FG: 46.1%||3 PT: 38.1%|
Vertical Leap: 36.5″
Strengths: Outside Shooting, Shot Creation, Athleticism
Weaknesses: Quickness/Speed, Consistency, Perimeter Defense
As with most recruits entering school at Kentucky, Johnson was a five star recruit in high school, and many expected him to be a one and done player at the beginning of the season. The Wildcats fell short of their national championship aspirations losing to Auburn in the elite eight, but Johnson for the most part showed why he is considered a high level NBA prospect. His outside shooting stroke is a natural coming off of his hand and has no glaring flaws, with Johnson shooting three pointers at 38.1% as a freshman. The shooting numbers overall suggest that with more time to focus on his game as a professional he will improve in that area, and has the capability of becoming at high level shooter at the next level. Coming off of screens is something that he did well in his one year at Kentucky, being ready to catch and shoot, but he also showed that he can create a shot when called for. He understands the angles of the game very well, and his movement without the ball should translate to getting open looks as a professional. Using those driving angles to get to basket, Johnson can finish around the basket in a variety of ways knowing how to use his body to prevent a defender from getting a block. In the mid-range he can knock down a jumper in a catch a shoot situation, or he has the skill set that allows him to take a couple of dribbles and pull for a high percentage jump shot. His size at 6’6″ will fit in well at the shooting guard position, and there will be times when he can slide over and play as a small forward as well, giving him more opportunities to get on the floor. He rebounded well for a guard at almost 6 per game, and this is something that he should be able to do as a pro with Johnson reading long rebounds coming off of the rim well. There were signs that he can be a solid passer showing a willingness to set up teammates, however this will not be a huge part of his game, but it is worth noting that when driving to the basket this is an area he can utilize more with the spacing in the NBA.
Johnson’s athleticism is a bit underrated being known mainly as a scorer through jump shots and driving to the basket, but his vertical at 36 inches and his highlight dunks suggest he will have no problem fitting in as an athlete. There are some questions with his foot speed, and smaller quicker guards can give him some trouble on the defensive end. The tools are there to be a solid defender at the next level outside of the quickness concerns, and being coached by John Calipari on defense for a season is a good start to reaching that potential. The main concern going forward with Johnson is that there were too many times where he just disappeared in a game and did not make an impact for long periods of time. This was not only frustrating to Kentucky fans at certain points, but also Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans who was seen telling Johnson to the “wake up” in a game, although he did use some harsher language in doing so. There are players that work through this and become consistent offensive threats on a nightly basis and then other players like Rudy Gay who never seem to overcome this and just simply have bad stretches in games. It should be noted that it can be easy to get lost on the floor with the amount of talent that Kentucky has, however that will level of talent will only increase on a NBA roster. All in all Johnson is a intriguing prospect who possesses athleticism, play making ability and a mentality where he believes he is the best player on the floor which he will need that confidence going forward. Johnson played well against Duke early in the season dropping 23 points, and he put up 20 on Auburn but games like his 0 point performance on 0-6 shooting against Georgia will have some teams concerned that he is a streaky scorer.
Here is an example of his ability to finish at the rim:
Keldon Johnson with the huge dunk to finish this one off pic.twitter.com/QFmzQMcMnl— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) December 31, 2018
This play shows how he can run the floor on the fast break and finish:
Go Cats! #19 Kentucky picks up a marquee win against #9 North Carolina 80-72. Best Kentucky has looked all year.— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) December 23, 2018
Keldon Johnson: 23 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST
Johnson is viewed as a lock to lock to go in the first round, with some projections to go inside of the top ten, and it would be a surprise to see him fall outside of the lottery. His ceiling as a professional is a starter level guard, putting up above average offensive numbers and possibly becoming a go to scorer for a franchise. The worst case scenario for Johnson is that he is struggles on defense becoming a liability on that side of the floor, leading to him coming off of the bench as a back up that can score points.