Even in a small market like the one the San Antonio Spurs are in, there may not be a more eye-popping young player than Keldon Johnson.
His unmatched on-court emotion has grabbed the hearts of Spurs fans, but it’s his bruiser-like ability and an ever-growing offensive ceiling that earned him a four-year, $80 million contract extension from the team on July 16.
Johnson’s unique and fiery play-style has also earned recognition around the league. Bleacher Report revealed Thursday its first and second-team selections for the most exciting young NBA players at each position, ranking players 22-years-old or younger that also have a high level of entertainment value.
Johnson was listed as a second-team selection at small forward. Here are the teams:
PG – LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
SG – Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
SF – Anthony Edwards, Minnesotta Timberwolves
PF – Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
C – Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
PG – Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
SG – Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
SF – Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
PF – Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
C – James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
Johnson, 22, was the No. 29 overall pick out of Kentucky in the 2019 draft. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, with averages of 17 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. His 74 starts was the most of anyone on the roster.
Johnson has also more than doubled his 3-point makes in each of his three seasons. After going an efficient, but low total of 13-22 from that range as a rookie, he bumped it up to 60-181 during his second season. And following the conclusion off year three in April, he tied former Spurs great Patty Mills for ninth-most 3s in a single season in franchise history after going 159-399 from deep, which led the team and was good for a respectable 39 percent.
Following the Dejounte Murray trade, Johnson was essentially thrust into the role as the team’s go-to player and leader in the blink of an eye. While attending San Antonio’s Vegas Summer League games, he talked about what it means to have the team put its faith in him.
“It’s definitely big,” Johnson said of the team’s vision for him. “They believe in me and trust me to come in and lead these guys in the right direction. I’m definitely taking that serious. I’m definitely out here every game showing my face to the young guys because they’re gonna be a part of our team this year. So just stay checking in and continue to be a leader and hope it just leads these guys to something special.”
The Spurs begin preseason play against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on Sunday, Oct. 2.
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