With the 21st pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Clippers have selected Keon Johnson, a wing out of the University of Tennessee. The Clippers originally had the 25th pick, but flipped that pick and a 2024 second round draft pick from the Pistons (courtesy of the Luke Kennard deal) to get the 21st pick.
Keon is a freshman, and a young one at that, just 19.5 years of age. A lanky 6’5 186 pound wing, Keon is an elite defensive player with incredible athleticism. He averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in 25.5 minutes for the Vols, shooting 44.9% from the field, 27.1% from three (on 1.8 attempts) and 70.3% from the free throw line (3.7 attempts).
I barely wrote about Keon, because I didn’t think he’d fall to 25. Clearly, the Clippers didn’t either, as they made their move up to draft him as he fell down the boards. The upside is definitely there with Keon – the defense is legit, and the youth, measurables, and athleticism all present some pluses going forward on offense.
The issue with Keon Johnson is that he’s not a three point shooter at this point – and we know that the Clippers need shooting around Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. That said, he has a nice midrange jumper, and his free throw numbers are solid. The three-point shooting could certainly come, especially with how young he is.
The youth is another interesting item. The Clippers are in win-now mode, and while Keon’s defense and athleticism might be NBA-ready, or close, his body and offense is not. With Kawhi out for much of the year, it’s possible Keon gets minutes that he wouldn’t otherwise, but even with those minutes available, it wouldn’t be shocking if Johnson didn’t play a ton his rookie year.
In terms of value, this is a really good pick. Keon is a lottery-level talent, and moving up just four picks to get him for a 2nd round pick is great value. I’m unsure of the fit, but the defense at least should be solid-ish fairly quickly. Jared Butler was the guy who I would have gone with here due to his incredible fit (as well as upside), and Jaden Springer was above Keon for me as well, but I can’t complain about the Clippers not swinging big.