Keldon Johnson is far from the biggest name on the Team USA men’s basketball roster, but he sure is making USA Basketball look smart.
With Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday still playing in the NBA Finals, Keldon Johnson came to Team USA as a temporary replacement for pre-Olympic exhibition games. When Bradley Beal and Kevin Love dropped out due to COVID-19 protocol and a recurring injury, respectively, Johnson’s status got upgraded: He’s officially going to Tokyo 2021.
At first glance, you might be wondering why Team USA would replace NBA All-Stars with a 21-year-old who just finished his sophomore year in the league (and isn’t named Zion Williamson). However, with an impressive debut for the stars and stripes, Johnson is making Team USA and Gregg Popovich look very, very smart.
Johnson impresses in Team USA debut
In Team USA’s final exhibition game before Tokyo, Johnson scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting against the FIBA No. 2-ranked Spanish team. The San Antonio Spurs forward scored 10 of those points in the third quarter alone, hitting all five of his shots in the frame. Johnson finished behind Damian Lillard for the second-most points in the 83-76 victory over a frequent international rival. More importantly, he served as a spark plug off the bench, energizing Team USA with his infectious spirit.
Johnson finished with a game-high plus-18 in 18 minutes played. He’s showing exactly why Popovich trusted his young forward with a coveted Olympic roster spot. Pop started Johnson in 67 games this past season for the Spurs.
If Johnson continues to rise to the occasion, he could be one of the most unexpected stars for Team USA men’s basketball.