Cavs draft: How 2021 prospect Keon Johnson can impact the team

Tennessee Volunteers guard Keon Johnson looks to make a play. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Tennessee Volunteers guard Keon Johnson looks to make a play. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

With the NBA season closing in on the 3/4 mark for many, there’s a good possibility that the Cleveland Cavaliers will not be making the playoffs. They have showed that they have the potential to be a playoff team in the near future, though, and have some very nice young pieces to build around.

They are a player or two away from meeting that postseason goal, really. Albeit them hitting on their next lottery pick to come will be key.

The Cavs will have good odds at the top pick or a pick near the top of the draft, likely. That said, with it being a lottery system, and the lottery rules changing recently, the balls might not bounce the Cavaliers’ way and they could find themselves picking towards the mid-end of the lottery in the 2021 NBA Draft.

If this does end up being the case, a player that should be on the Cavs draft board in that range is Keon Johnson of Tennessee. He is a raw prospect with a lot to work on, but, he has a ton of upside as a potential two-way contributor and can bring a lot to the team in coming years.

In James Ham of NBC Sports’ latest mock draft, he had Johnson being selected ninth overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So how could Johnson provide an impact for the Cavs, then?

The first thing that Johnson can bring to the Cavaliers if they select him in the 2021 NBA Draft is interior scoring/slashing capabilities. He is one of the most athletic prospects in the entire draft and can finish above the rim with the best of them. Although he may need to improve his driving and finishing ability when going to his left, he is still a force in the paint, especially when driving right.

There would be a little bit of redundancy between Johnson and Collin Sexton if they both are in the Cavaliers starting lineup, however, Johnson would be best coming off of the bench until he further refines and develops his game.

Another way he can impact the Cavaliers is his rebounding ability. Johnson probably could add some functional strength, but even at 6-foot-5 and 186 pounds, he still is fairly put together, and does contribute on the glass, even while 3.5 boards on average didn’t necessarily illuminate that.

The final way that Johnson would be able to impact the Cavs right when he were to touch the floor for them would be his defensive ability. In college with the Tennessee Volunteers, he averaged 1.1 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. Him having a steal rate of 2.5 percent and a block rate of 2.0 percent was impressive, though, when scaling it out.

With his build and athleticism, Johnson will be versatile enough to guard point guards, shooting guards, and smaller small forwards.

And with the Cavs already having a plethora of guards, and of course Sexton and Darius Garland firmly in the fold, this versatility will be something that is much needed if they select a guard in the 2021 NBA Draft.

And circling back a bit, with him being on a really good roster with another guard on the roster being projected to be a lottery pick in Jaden Springer, the stats he put up in college were noteworthy. 11.3 points per outing didn’t knock your socks off, but Johnson having 18.0 in conference player per-40 minutes shouldn’t be discounted, and he did on average play 25.5 minutes per game, anyhow.

Johnson is still a very raw prospect and at times struggles when handling the ball. Along with this, he has a ways to go to become a viable three-point shooter. He shot just 27.1 percent from three in his one year with the Volunteers, and as we know, the Cavs have struggled from deep overall thus far this season (although injuries often haven’t helped).

This is not a major knock as there are countless players who came into the league without a reliable deep ball, but developed one once they were in the NBA. Heck, Sexton himself hit only 33.6 percent from three in his lone collegiate season at Alabama and has hit 38.5 percent from there in his career to this point, for example.

And with Johnson’s explosiveness, and him flashing the ability to change his speeds some on-ball in settled offense and showing encouraging shot creation signs as his season progressed, perhaps the deep ball can come in time if he’s developed properly.

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If the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves picking towards the mid-end of the lottery, the 19-year-old Johnson could very well be a solid addition to the club and can bring a lot to the team. He is truly an electric athlete.