NBA Mock Draft: Cavs go with Kansas State standout in Tankathon’s latest

Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State Wildcats. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State Wildcats. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

It’s been a satisfying 2022-23 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the team likely to finish at either third or fourth in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland surpassed their 2021-22 win total last week after the defeating the Washington Wizards for their 45th win of the current campaign, and the Cavaliers have since added two more victories to their win total, both over the Brooklyn Nets.

Now, for the Cavaliers, the 2023 NBA Draft is not one with the hype surrounding it among the club’s fan base as other recent past drafts have, as the team is not set to have a first-round selection. Their 2023 first-rounder will convey to the Indiana Pacers, as part of last season’s Caris LeVert trade, with Cleveland set to make the playoffs.

That being said, the draft still will be meaningful for the Cavaliers, who are likely set to have a pick in the middle of the second round, where they could land a depth contributor, and more possible wing and/or defensive help.

Cleveland has their core guys in Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to build with from here, and there are guys such as Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, and Ricky Rubio who are perimeter players that can aid the core, as they’ve shown. Others such as Lamar Stevens, Cedi Osman and Dean Wade can give the team a boost as well, and all have had their moments throughout this season.

Looking at the upcoming draft for the Cavs, though, it could behoove them to snag some more wing help to bolster their perimeter offense, and as of Friday, Cleveland went with Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson at No. 48 in a recent mock.

Johnson could provide the Cavaliers with a shooting punch, which would be a welcomed sight on the wing.

Johnson was previously a big-time player at Florida, and he had 14.0 points per contest in his sophomore season in 2019-20, and he tallied 7.1 rebounds per game then as well. But, Johnson’s basketball career was thought to be in jeopardy in December of 2020, in the earlygoing of his 2020-21 season, as he collapsed on the floor in a game, and he was at one point in a medically induced coma.

He was not eventually cleared to return to game action by the SEC, and one had to assume his career could very well be cut short. To Johnson’s credit, he kept fighting, and he would down the road be cleared by the Big 12, and this season, in a return to playing in a prominent role, he had 17.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest for Kansas State.

In the 2022-23 season with K-State, Johnson connected on 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts, he returned to playing at a First-Team All-Conference level, just as he was then, in 2019-20 at Florida. It’s been incredible how he’s put his name back on the NBA Draft radar, given what transpired with the Gators and the frightening collapse, and not to mention, with his current squad marching on to the Elite Eight.

For Johnson, there’s reason to believe that he could project as a NBA player given his off-ball shooting potential, solid rebounding and he could feasibly his own against forwards on defense. Johnson is 22 at this point, and with the situation at Florida in mind, as KJG’s Josh Cornelissen noted, one would have to assume he’d be out of consideration in the first round.

However, as Cornelissen also essentially alluded to, while Johnson is an undersized forward at 6-foot-5, his frame at 230 pounds can help him against some forwards, along with his toughness and competitive nature. Johnson’s 6-foot-11 wingspan is a positive for his projection, too, for what it’s worth.

For his perimeter shooting potential, and some long-term uncertainty with Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler, and to some degree it seems, Dean Wade, this projection of Johnson to the Cavs in the mid-second round seems pretty reasonable.

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It’ll be intriguing to watch what the Wine and Gold do come late-June in that spot in the 2023 NBA Draft, should they eventually make the selection.