Rebuilding an NBA organization is never an easy task and it hasn’t been any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers who went 27-55 last season after their star player, Damian Lillard, battled an …
Rebuilding an NBA organization is never an easy task and it hasn’t been any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers who went 27-55 last season after their star player, Damian Lillard, battled an abdominal injury before being sidelined for the second half of the season.
Committing to the rebuild, the Blazers sent Lillard’s counterpart, C.J. McCollum, to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for a few role players and a first-round pick in this year’s draft.
In the 2022 NBA Draft, the Blazers selected Shaedon Sharpe from Kentucky with the seventh overall pick and Jabari Walker from Colorado with the 57th overall pick – adding to their already youthful roster that includes 14 players that are 25 years old or younger.
Heading into the NBA Summer League tournament, Portland had a plethora of lineups and schemes to work with, but one player stood alone at the forefront of those plans – Keon Johnson.
Johnson was traded to Portland via the Los Angeles Clippers in February after the Clippers drafted him with the 21st overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft.
In 22 games for Portland last season, he averaged 25.5 minutes per game, 9.8 points per game, and 34.8% shooting from three-point range.
Johnson carried his momentum into the summer to help lead the Blazers to a NBA Summer League Championship, and give their supporters something to look forward to when the regular season comes back around.
Johnson led Portland’s Summer League squad to a 3-1 record before they arrived in the Championship game where they defeated the Knicks 85-77.
While he didn’t play his best game in the championship, Johnson still contributed on the defensive end with three steals.
For the entirety of the summer, Johnson led his team in points per game with 14.2, steals per game with 1.8, and minutes per game with 31.2.
He added 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game to round out a productive stint in Las Vegas.
His best performance came in a contest against the Houston Rockets who drafted three players in the first round of this year’s draft, including the third overall pick in Jabari Smith Jr.
In the 85-77 win over Houston, Johnson piled on 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field with four rebounds and four three-pointers.
As the summer nears its end, the Blazers and Johnson have plenty to build off of heading into next season.
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