Big Body, Big Win: Why Keldon Johnson’s $80 Million Extension is Perfect

Keldon Johnson and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a four-year, $80 million extension. The deal kicks in during the 2023-24 season and runs through the 2026-27 campaign. If the Spurs and Johnson had not agreed to an extension this offseason, he would have become a restricted free agent next summer.

Is this $80 million extension for Keldon Johnson a surprise?

Yes and no.

The timing of the extension is definitely a surprise. The vast majority of rookie extensions either come right at the beginning of the free agency period or right at the October deadline. For example, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White both signed their extensions minutes before the deadline in October.

On the other hand, the dollar figure isn’t a surprise at all. If Johnson and the Spurs were going to come to an agreement on an extension, $80 million was the number that was being openly discussed by all involved parties — and even interested onlookers from around the league.

Why was $80 million the magic number?

The outlook for Johnson was clear. If he took another step forward next season, he could have been looking at a four-year deal in the $100-110 million range. However, if Johnson struggled as the first option and his efficiency plummeted, his value could have dropped to around $50-60 million. Thus, the middle ground both sides could feel comfortable with was always going to be right around $80 million.

Does this extension impact San Antonio’s cap space?

It doesn’t change anything this summer. The Spurs still have north of $30 million in cap space, which they hope to use to facilitate a trade including Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell.

However, this extension does impact cap space for the Spurs next summer. If Johnson would have become a restricted free agent, his cap hold would have been $11 million. This extension starts at right around $18 million, which means the Spurs will lose out on $7 million in cap space next offseason due to the timing of the extension.

Then again, considering that the Spurs can still open up more than $70 million in cap space next offseason, missing out on $7 million isn’t much to worry about. Obviously, the Spurs took these numbers into account and decided that getting Johnson extended now was worth more than maximizing next summer’s cap space. 

Is this Keldon Johnson extension connected to the Dejounte Murray trade at all?

There are no direct ties to the Dejounte Murray trade. That said, it’s possible that extending Johnson now was partially done to send a message.

First of all, it signals San Antonio’s belief in Johnson. The Olympics gold medalist is now officially the face of the franchise. With Johnson under contract for five more seasons, he’s a cornerstone the organization can lean on during the rebuild. 

Secondly, it signals that the Spurs are still willing to compensate players fairly — even during the chaotic nature of a rebuilding process. While Murray was traded, this extension proves the Spurs won’t instantly jettison anyone and everyone with positive value.

Should Spurs fans be happy with Keldon Johnson’s extension?

Yes, I think this is really good news. The Spurs locked up an up-and-coming player to a fair deal. Johnson, for his part, didn’t try to scratch and claw every last penny out of the franchise’s coffers. Instead, he agreed to an extension right at his market value. By doing so at this point in the offseason and so soon after the emotional Dejounte Murray trade, Johnson has clearly embraced becoming the leader of San Antonio’s youth movement.