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Kings Pulse: 2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles – Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer

Freshmen guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were Tennessee's top scorers this season - but do either make sense for Sacramento?

We kicked off the Kings Pulse draft profiles by looking at the two freshmen guards from Tennessee - Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer. The two were the leading scorers for the Volunteers this season, and helped lead Tennessee to 18-9 record and a 5th seed in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Oregon State in the 1st round.

Per 40 minutes, Keon Johnson averaged 17.8 points 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 4.1 turnovers a game while shooting 44.9% from the field, 27.1% from three, and 70.3% from the line. Johnson is one of the most athletic players in a very athletic draft class, although his size - 6'5 and a recorded 186 lbs with a 6'8 wingspan - keeps him squarely in the guard/fringe wing category. Scouts love his athleticism and intensity on defense, but he's a project player on both ends of the court and needs to significantly improve his shooting numbers at the NBA level.

Springer, meanwhile, is a tank of a guard - standing 6'4 with a 6'7 wingspan and 204 pounds, and a physical style that takes advantage of his strength on both ends. Per 40 minutes, Springer averaged 19.3 points, 4.5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 3.7 turnovers per game, while shooting 46.7% from the field, 43.5% from three, and 81% from the line. Springer is one of the best point of attack defenders in the draft class, and while neither Springer's basketball instincts or Head Coach Rich Barnes truly took advantage of Springer's shooting abilities, he has some immediate avenues for success at the next level.

In our profiles of the two Volunteers, we discussed

  • Why Tennessee was such a messy fit for both guards, especially on offense
  • Do Johnson's tools and motor make him a smart gamble in the lottery?
  • Does Springer have enough upside to pair him with De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton?
  • Given the Kings massive needs at the forward spots, is there an argument for either as the Best Player Available come pick 9?
  • Which of the two we'd prefer in Sacramento

What are your armchair scout opinions on the Tennessee freshmen? Do either make sense for Sacramento? Let us know in the comments!

The Kings Pulse podcast is available on all major listening platforms.

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June 8, 2021 11:38 am

Keon sounds like a bust. Shooting guards who can’t shoot and have no guard skills usually don’t belong on the court. The thing about him that stood out the most to me while watching the 2nd half of an ncaa tournament game was a weak motor. Looked like he needed an IV. So to hear his coach calling out his conditioning sounds spot on. And if it’s true that his motor is questionable, well, he wouldn’t really check the box for nba athleticism.

June 8, 2021 7:44 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Don’t trip on him being a shooting guard. He can guard the 3 spot. Good size, plays big with his athleticism.

June 10, 2021 7:00 am
Reply to  eddie41

They do make him sound like a bust. Jaden Springer does not deserve Keon Johnson comps. Shocked that they project Springer as a wing. He’s not. Johnson is rangy and will grow into his frame. First time I remember disagreeing so completely with most of these opinions. Johnson is a forward and will be a good starter. Springer is a bench player in the mold of Cory Joseph. Who thinks we need him back?

June 8, 2021 11:39 am

Springer is intriguing. I’d like to know how you would compare him to Jared Butler.

June 8, 2021 12:30 pm
Reply to  Bryant

the guest you had on the podcast a few months ago suggested Springer for the Kings also. Had him ranked really high.

June 8, 2021 11:51 am

We need legit SF and up size unless we get to 4 and suggs is the best available.

At 9 we should be looking for BPA at either SF, pf, c

June 8, 2021 12:14 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

At SF, a guy who has risen to #24 on Vecine’s big board is Kessler Edwards. A lot of people on this site like him also. At PF, Sengun is #8 on Vecine’s board.

June 8, 2021 12:24 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Alperen Sengun’s stock is starting to rise. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

June 8, 2021 1:40 pm
Reply to  Bryant


June 8, 2021 7:45 pm
Reply to  Bryant

I like Usman Garuba better.

Last edited 6 days ago by Hamlet1989
June 8, 2021 12:54 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Yeah I like Sengun for us at 9ish.

If love to somehow get another early teen to try and snatch Moody or another wing they like.

Spurs at 12 with something centered on Barnes is what I’d try and do

June 8, 2021 1:24 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

I’d rather have two more years of H Barnes than the Spurs pick.

June 8, 2021 9:56 pm
Reply to  eddie41

I disagree big time but hopefully the Spurs agree with you!

June 8, 2021 7:49 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Sengun at 9 MIGHT BE better than Papa G. pick.

June 8, 2021 11:55 am

Nope… if we stay at 9 or in 8-11 range I hope we get Franz Wagner. Smart player, good passer at the 3, good team defender and just helps the team. I don’t see where any of the guards/smaller wings between 8-13 are that much better than Wagner… so if they are all Projected pretty evenly then let’s get a position if need..

June 9, 2021 12:44 pm
Reply to  Want2win

Something about Franz makes me want to stay as far away from him as possible. Maybe it’s his brother…maybe its the second half of the scouting report videos…idk

With the 10th pick in the 2021 NBA draft the Sacramento Kings select Franz Wagner…..

June 8, 2021 1:51 pm

Keon Johnson is decent, only 52% TS%, maybe his shot will come around, his mechanics are pretty good, but we’re not taking him. And Terrence Davis is better than Keon Johnson.

We should take Alperen Sengun at #9, or Kai Jones.

Alperen reminds me of Sabonis, he’s got toughness, great footwork, high IQ, not as good of a passer, but a better athlete at equal or more length.

Alperen has the fundamentals, toughness and athleticism! When you have a player with the toughness trait, typically it is at the expense of athleticism, being either a banger or a high flyer. But when you are tough and relatively athletic, and fundamentally sound, you check a lot of the boxes!

Drafting Alperen would be contingent on making him our starting PF. Does he have that two position versatility , PF/C? Or is he just a center? It is hard to discern this off the tape. We need him from Day One to play that PF spot next to Holmes, or at least seriously challenge Metu and be ble to split minutes there.

Alperen can also get the rebound and go, lead the break! And dare I say Alperen has a little bit of the Jokic swagger, the pending MVP of the league. He shows a good knack of reading the floor and making the right play. He has also a plethera of spin moves without moving his pivot foot.

Marvin Badly only wishes he had the low post repertoire of the Alpster!

Athletic and SI are TRASH publications, with TRASH analytics, projecting Franz Wagner, a weak ass scrub, and Josh Giddey to the Kings?!?!?

Josh Giddey is a bean pole, a combo guard, and two years away from being two years away. Who is Giddey going to guard? C’mon! And Franz Wagner is a role player if that. He’s very mediocre, sprays his shot, weak drives.

Anyone who thinks Wagner and Scotty Barnes are good lottery prospects have NO clue what they are talking about, they are parroting what they heard from another clueless podcast or channel, regurgitating conventional narrative.

I am looking forward to Barnes and Wagner stuck in the “Green Room” until the end of the 1st Round! Actually I hope some team ahead of us is stupid enough to take these schlubs so McGenius gets the 1st man on his draft board!

Kessler Edwards is a NICE prospect too, I immediately put him ahead of Scottie Bust, Z Williams and Wagner on my board!

June 8, 2021 2:39 pm
Reply to  Bryant

You are mischaracterizing my comments. And since when are SI and the Athletic off limits ? I have not listened to the latest Pod yet so none of my “rant” is directed at you.

You want a prospect profile? I churn out more content and opinion than almost anyone else on this forum, definitely on a “words per post” basis, and you want more? I will take that as compliment.

I just provided a fairly comprehensive analysis of Alperen; who else around here is breaking down players games to the extent I do? Sorry I don’t see it!

I am supremely confident in my assessment of these players. Those less so, less able to bring the heat, willing and able to assert their own analysis are threatened by my relative certainty.

Why do not any of the draft profiles or the Kings season review for that matter say “Player A” cannot play. Case in point: Jerry Reynolds said, paraphrasing, on a recent Pod that Woodward was an undersized and underwhelming and unimpressive player in the G League.

Jerry was spot-on echoeing my comments from the pre-season on Woodward.

And yet the season review spoke more or less of Woodward in neutral to glowing terms instead of prolaiming the LOUSY year he had, getting owned in practice by Metu and relegated to the bench because he did deserve court time. He proved he was NOT a combo forward, could not shoot, thereby limiting his versatility and upside and the hopes we all had for him immediately post-draft.

Unless Woodward dramatically improves, like Justin James did when he mastered the floater in the lane behind the scenes, he is going to be out of the league in a matter of months. That’s the headline; that is an honest and objective assessment.

Because we will possibly be drafting Alperen, if he projects as PF/C per McGenius, adding more combo Fs regardless, and that will push Woodward further down the depth chart into oblivion!

If you cannot see how poor or bad Woodward was, as equally unimpressive as Ty was impressive, than you are just as likely to assert Josh Giddey or Wagner to the Kings. You are not a serious NBA observer. This is not me ranting, it is calling it like I see it.

June 8, 2021 3:02 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

oblivion sounds like a brutal place.

June 8, 2021 5:11 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance… you crossed way over it.

But you be you if it works for you…

June 8, 2021 10:06 pm
Reply to  Want2win

I would agree with the “you do you” mindset, except I and 90% of other members have to skip/scroll through the inane river of drivel that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…am I doing this right?

The douchebag nature of it throws a wrench into the general board conversation and sidetracks the community at times. Just tiresome.

Last edited 6 days ago by WizsSox
June 9, 2021 12:46 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

He might actually have a point, y’all. I’m just too lazy to read through this and find it.

June 8, 2021 7:40 pm

Moody is my obvious choice for best fit. Swings from 2-4, can guard bigs, wings, and guards. Great shooter, especially from deep. Doesn’t need the ball in his hands (C&S only). GETS TO THE LINE!

June 8, 2021 7:50 pm

Moody’s floor is Buddy.

June 8, 2021 7:57 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

Pessimistically speaking because Moody projects as one of the best defensive prospects in this draft. Natural fit at the 2-3 and will probably play some small-ball 5 before his career is finished due to his ability to body up on bigger players.

June 8, 2021 10:01 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

I’d love sengun at 9 and moody at 12 after trading Barnes to the spurs

Leaves us money to resign holmes.

Fox, wright
Hali, davis
Buddy, moody
Bags, sengun
Holmes, sengun

Last edited 6 days ago by MidtownMike
June 9, 2021 9:01 am
Reply to  Hamlet1989

I’m not really sure a see an outcome where Moody and Buddy are comparable. Moody’s shooting floor is well below Buddy and his defensive floor is above Buddy’s. A more realistic lower-end expectation is probably someone like the current version of Dorian Finney-Smith. Someone that’s a pretty good CsS shooter (Somewhere around 38%-ish) and an above average versatile wing defender. With a high end expectation of something that looks like a somewhat beefier Mikal Bridges.

June 9, 2021 12:10 am

Tennessee’s Yves Pons in the 2nd round. A 3-D wing physically ready right now. Elite athlete. All SEC Defense and shot block machine. Should be in the All Star Weekend Dunk Contest.

June 9, 2021 9:13 am
Reply to  Bryant

Yep, his ceiling is probably something PJ Tucker-y it everything plays out perfectly. The fact is that for all his crazy athleticism and despite playing close to the basket, he didn’t really create defensive events at a special level, didn’t rebound much, and never figured out how to score even passably efficiently. Especially for a 4-year front court player that wasn’t asked to do much on the offensive end except take open shots and dunks.

Last edited 5 days ago by BestHyperboleEver
June 9, 2021 6:20 pm

Didn’t see a comment about this, so maybe it was just my Spotify: anyone notice that the Kings Pulse podcast overlapped the intro over the first ~1 min of the hosts talking? Or was it just my Spotify??

June 10, 2021 7:04 am

Springer at 9? Someone bumped his head.

June 11, 2021 2:39 pm

Certainly drafting is an inexact science and many of these players I haven’t seen very much. I have had the pleasure to coach against Jalen Green in high school and in a couple of AAU games. I’ve also witnessed 3 of his recent workouts at our club gym in the Bay Area. I’m convinced he will be a better player than Cade Cunningham and he’s my top pick in the draft. I will add you will also not find a higher character person in the draft.

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