Keon Johnson is raw but explosive
The Clippers sent a second-rounder to the Knicks to move up four spots in the 2021 draft and took Johnson, a 6’5″ wing who shone in his one season at the University of Tennessee, with the 21st pick. Johnson was big news at the NBA scouting combine, logging a 48-inch vertical leap.
But he appeared in only 135 minutes total in 15 games for Los Angeles and hadn’t seen the court since January 9. His per-36 minute averages are mostly solid (14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals) with a hint of alarming (35 percent shooting, 27 from 3-point range), but the sample size is tiny so take them with the appropriately sized grains of salt.
Like Winslow, he’ll have an instant opportunity to contribute for Portland – particularly if CJ McCollum is dealt before next Thursday’s trade deadline. And he’ll sell tickets with his freakish athletic ability.
In fact, it’s possible that although far less competitive for wins, a Blazers lineup featuring Simons, Winslow, Johnson, Greg Brown, and whatever young frontcourt sensation they can get for the McCollum and Nurkic phase of the fire sale would be a far more entertaining team to watch play out the string than the one Portland trotted out for the first 50-plus games.
Johnson is still on his rookie deal and is owed less than $10 million for the next three seasons, giving the Blazers a grand total of three players locked down beyond next season; Lillard and Greg Brown are the others.
A future built on Lillard, Johnson, Simons, and Brown is intriguing, and it’s hard to imagine another trio of young stars that could match the energy of the three Blazer youngsters, but they’ll all have to approach their maximum potential to wipe the sour taste left from this deal from the mouths of Portland fans.