Trading up for Keon Johnson a risk worth taking for Wizards

Keon Johnson makes his move in NCAA tournament game

The Washington Wizards are picking in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether they trade up, down or stay firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who the Wizards could consider selecting.

2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Keon Johnson

School/team: Tennessee

Position: SG/SF

Age: 19

Height: 6-5

Weight: 184

Wingspan: 6-7

2020/21 stats: 27 G, 11.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.4 bpg, 44.9 FG% (4.1/9.1), 27.1 3PT% (0.5/1.8), 70.3 FT%

Player comparison: RJ Hampton

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 8th, Ringer 6th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th

5 things to know:

- Johnson is a special athlete. He has an explosive first step, serious bounce off the dribble and can finish in a multitude of ways around the rim. Johnson has a smaller frame at 6-5, 184 pounds, but he's stronger than he looks and could become an imposing force if he adds more muscle in the pros. 

- He's relentless driving to the basket. Johnson is at his best taking his defender off the dribble, getting to the paint or rising up in the middle of the paint for a quick floater/short-range jumper. With added space in the NBA, he should have even more success getting to the basket and finishing through contact. 



- Johnson has the potential to be a really good, versatile defender. He has great lateral quickness and an ability to slide his feet to stay in front of perimeter threats, while his active hands make him a solid option to throw on opposing guards. If he can add strength, it's hard to see why he can't guard a few power forwards in the NBA, especially as the game goes even more toward small ball. 

- Johnson's jump shot isn't quite there yet. He has a funky release and it's not as consistent as you'd hope. He struggles as a spot-up shooter as well as off the dribble, which limits his offensive game. He often relies too heavily on getting to the rim, and would make him a much easier cover in the NBA if he never develops a consistent stroke. However, it'd be premature to call his jumper broken.


- He flashes potential as a passer, but Johnson's not much of a playmaker right now. He's a score-first wing at the moment, but could develop his playmaking later in his career. This is the area, along with improving his jumper, that could make Johnson a dynamic two-way player. There's a lot of upside here. 

Fit with Wizards:

It's no secret the Wizards lack depth on the wing. Deni Avdija is probably their best wing defender who isn't an absolute zero offensively (Isaac Bonga), and after that, there's Rui Hachimura, who's more of a power forward anyway. 

Adding Johnson wouldn't solve their need for shooting right away, but he would give them a solid option to guard other team's better perimeter threats. If he can stay on the floor defensively, it'll allow him to start to figure out his scoring spots at the NBA level. Bradley Beal wouldn't be the worst guy to learn from if you're Johnson. 

However, it's unlikely Johnson falls to No. 15 barring some unforeseen circumstance, so the Wizards would likely have to trade up to get him. He'd be a good trade-up target for sure, though. Two-way wings are hard to come by in the NBA and are worth taking risks for.