JULY 18: The Spurs have officially announced Johnson’s new deal, issuing a press release to confirm the move.
Johnson was the 29th pick of the 2019 draft. As a former first-round pick entering his fourth season, he was eligible for a rookie scale extension, and he has agreed to a lucrative deal to remain with San Antonio.
Johnson spent most of his rookie season in the G League, but emerged as a potential building block during the team’s run in the Orlando bubble. He started to put things together nicely during his second season in 2020/21, showing glimpses of upside while averaging 12.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 1.8 APG on .479/.331/.740 shooting in 69 games (28.5 MPG).
The 22-year-old was one of San Antonio’s best players last season, appearing in 75 games (31.9 MPG) with averages of 17.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 2.1 APG on .466/.398/.756 shooting. Nicknamed “Big Body” for his strong frame and hard drives to the rim, Johnson showed improvement as an outside shooter in ’21/22, with his three-point percentage increasing by nearly seven percent.
For the sake of comparison, Johnson’s extension is in between what a couple of other small forwards received for their rookie extensions: OG Anunoby got $72MM over four years from the Raptors in 2020 (the last year being a player option), while Mikal Bridges received $90MM over four years from the Suns last summer. Johnson hasn’t been the defender that either of those two were through their third seasons, but he’s been a more productive offensive player — part of that is due to opportunity, but he’s still a talented player with plenty of room for improvement.
Johnson’s extension will kick in during the ’23/24 season. As our extension tracker shows, he is the first player to receive a rookie scale extension that isn’t a maximum-salary deal.