Keldon Johnson is among the most important players in the San Antonio Spurs' rebuild. He signed a four-year, $74 million contract extension in the offseason, making him the highest-paid player on the team when the deal starts.
Johnson got off to a hot start to the season, but his efficiency has rapidly declined. He's averaging 20.4 points per game, which is set to be a single-season career-high. However, he's doing so while shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Since returning to the Spurs' lineup against the LA Clippers on Nov. 19 after a one-game absence, Johnson has averaged just 16.3 points while shooting 30.7 percent from the floor, 19.4 percent on 3s, and 62.1 percent on free throws.
“Keep shooting,” Johnson said of what he needs to do to turn his performance around. “Eventually, it will go in.”
There's been increased commentary about Johnson's shooting mechanics amid his recent slide. He doesn't see a need to do anything beyond minor tweaks when he gets into a shooting slump and remains confident in his abilities.
“There is no amount of film that is going to tell me how to shoot a basketball,” Johnson said. “I have been shooting a basketball my whole life. For me to take steps backward, nah. You tweak it a little bit, but other than that, you just keep shooting.”
With the Spurs clearly at the early stage of a full-scale rebuild, the play of their young talents is of the utmost importance. What they show now can help to determine what their ultimate ceilings are as players. Johnson is among the top names to monitor throughout the season, given his opportunity.
Part of being an elite player is about making an impact on the game even when shots aren't falling. Johnson has focused on finding ways to get the job done as a scorer even when his 3-point shots aren't dropping, with post-ups and mid-range looks being the main ways of doing so.
“My shot hasn’t been falling, so I have to impact the game in other ways,” Johnson said. “(Sunday), I got it going in the post and mid-range area. I stayed with that and made it work.”
The Spurs have only won once since October ended with 11 consecutive losses. Their 6-18 record is the worst in the Western Conference. A significant part of that has been due to the team's lack of starpower. Johnson is regressing as the season goes on. At some point, he will need to get back on track if he wants to remain one of the top-scoring options for his team for the long haul.
“My teammates keep trusting me, and my coaches keep trusting me,” Johnson said. “And it will fall. Do I know when? No.
“But I will not stop shooting the ball. I will shoot the ball, and I am confident it will go in every time it leaves my hand.”
The Spurs return to action on Thursday when they take on the Houston Rockets.
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