POP Season Preview: How Good Can Stanley Johnson Be in Year Two?

Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons have no reason to regret selecting Stanley Johnson with the 8th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Detroit took Johnson ahead of players such as Devin Booker and Justise Winslow, something they were heavily criticized for.

But as Stanley Johnson enters his second season in the NBA, there is no question that he was the right pick. He had a good rookie season, prior to suffering a shoulder injury in the second half of the season. He showed a knack for scoring on offense, and on defense he showcased his potential to be an elite defender.

Last season he averaged 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. While those were solid numbers, his scoring came at an inefficient rate. He shot only 37.5% from the inside the arc, and barely over 30% from deep, shooting 30.7% from the three-point line. He did however shoot a solid 78.4% from the free throw line. Johnson can score in a multitude of ways. He can attack the basket with and finish due to his strength and quickness, this summer in the Orlando Summer League, he showed an impressive mid-range jumper, and throughout his rookie year he flashed potential from shooting behind the three-point line.

Coming into year two in his career, Johnson heads to training camp in a position battle that he will likely lose. Marcus Morris was the starting small forward last year for the Pistons and that is not going to change this year, at least at the start of the season. Johnson is the future starting small forward, but Morris is currently the better player. Johnson instead will be the sixth man this upcoming season on a much improved bench that includes newcomers Ish Smith and Jon Leuer, along with Aron Baynes and possibly shooting guard Reggie Bullock. Being on the bench will not be a bad thing for Johnson, as this season he will have competent pieces around him that will make him a better player. Too many times last season Johnson was put in the position to create for the second unit, even though he was only a rookie. Now with one of the better backup point guards in the league in Ish Smith playing alongside him, Johnson will have someone to facilitate to him, unlike last year in which Johnson was asked to do everything. Although he will be on the bench, that does not mean Johnson will play bench minutes. He could and should receive more minutes compared to last season. Morris averaged 35.7 minutes per game last year, which was among league leaders in minutes per game. With Johnson a year older, he will be able to take more of a burden. There is no reason to believe that Johnson won’t play at least twenty-five minutes per game next season. He clearly has the talent to, and can do so at a high level.

Johnson has been working hard this offseason, he spoke with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders on the skills he has been improving:

“I’m practicing going left, practicing coming off of ball-screens and shooting threes, practicing catching-and-shooting and practicing team defense. Those are some of the things that I’m focused on. … I’m a lot more confident. The work that I’ve done this summer has me feeling like I’ll be able to score from all three levels very efficiently and defend. I’m going to build off of that. [I’ve grown a lot]. Last year, I felt like I was in elementary school and this year, I feel like I’m a senior in high school.”

There is a ton of room for Johnson to grow, and in year two he’ll have the chance to showcase what he worked on this offseason for a team looking to set the NBA on notice.

Featured image via: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports