KD Johnson commits to Auburn

UGA transfer KD Johnson committed to Auburn May 19.

Johnson was a top 100 recruit in high school—spending his prep career at Southwest DeKalb High School in Atlanta and Hargrave Military Academy in—and Jeff Goodman ranked Johnson as the No. 43 transfer.

As a freshman at UGA, Johnson (6-1, 190) made the SEC All-Freshman Team after averaging 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game in just 22.5 minutes per contest. 

Johnson shot 42.2 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from three and 61.5 percent from the line during his freshman season.

The combo guard only played in 16 games for Tom Crean due to eligibility issues. Johnson also didn’t start a game at UGA, but he played more than 20 minutes in 14 of his 16 games there. 

Johnson scored his season high 24 points at Alabama, shooting 40 percent on the night and racking up four steals. He also had 22 points on 60 percent shooting against Tennessee and 21 points on 47 percent shooting against Auburn. Johnson had four outings of more than 20 points, five games with three or more steals, seven games with two or more assists and shot better than 40 percent from three nine times.

Per 40 minutes, Johnson averaged 24 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.1 assists and 3.8 turnovers.

(Johnson’s assist to turnover ratio should improve immediately with the upgrade in talent he’ll have at Auburn.)

If it qualified, Johnson’s steal percentage would be top 20 in the country and his free throw rate would be No. 54. 

A few familiar names in KenPom’s statistical comparison includes Mac McClung and Terrance Davis.

Expectations/Notes: Johnson has the potential to be an elite guard at Auburn. I expect him to be the starting shooting guard or the first guard off the bench.

He is a good fit for Auburn. Johnson thrives in the open court and plays well with the ball in his hand. His ability to “get his own” will make him a valuable asset. Desi Sills has a similar ability, but he wasn’t as consistent as Johnson was as a freshman.

Bruce Pearl is known to let his guards “go,” and Johnson does so about as well as anyone.

According to KenPom, Johnson played all of his minutes during UGA’s last five games at the shooting guard position.

Johnson’s size and athleticism let’s him defend point guards and shooting guards, and he has the handle and potential to be a point guard. However, with Auburn’s roster and Johnson’s explosive scoring ability, he seems like a better fit running shooting guard beside Wendell Green and Zep Jasper at point guard.

Johnson did have some questionable decision making at UGA, but he missed the first half of his freshman season and had his rhythm thrown off by a struggling UGA team and two guards in front of him.

On offense, his bread and butter is using his explosive first step and strength to blow by or overpower smaller defenders. He needs to add a few more reliable perimeter moves, but Johnson has a tight enough handle, a good shot and a great ability to get to the rim, which should give him some triple threat capabilities in time.

Johnson is skilled getting to the rim and finishing at the rim, and is equally impressive at drawing fouls. His free throw rate would rank in last season’s top 55 if Johnson had enough minutes to qualify, which the NCAA’s eligibility issues stopped from happening.

Johnson’s three throw percentage (61.5) wasn’t great in year one, but he showed good touch from three and should improve at the line.

Like with Sharife Cooper, Johnson’s entire freshman season came in conference play after missing the first half of the year. His numbers could be even more impressive with a full non conference slate.

Another offseason’s worth of development and more structure in his game and around him could make several of Johnson’s flaws less noticeable. 

Johnson plays smart and tenacious defense, using his anticipation, strength and explosive athleticism to pick up steals and blocks, and he turns many of his steals into instant offense.

I expect Auburn will use Johnson’s defense in a way similar to how they used Bryce Brown, Samir Doughty, Allen Flanigan, Davion Mitchell and others as a one-man full court press.