Coming into the 2016-17 season, Pistons second year swingman, Stanley Johnson, had lofty expectations after a solid rookie year and an impressive postseason against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers:
Consensus amongst NBA writers and Piston coaches/players was that Johnson would take his game to the “next level” this year and maybe even challenge Marcus Morris as the Pistons starting small forward. Unfortunately, Johnson’s progress was halted but there are reasons to be optimistic for his future.
For most of the season, Johnson played sporadically especially compared to his rookie year. Primarily, Johnson played the backup small forward role but was benched several times throughout the season and he even had to serve a game in the D-League.
Largely, this season was a roller coaster for the 20-year-old out of Arizona. However, while comparing Johnson’s stats over his short two year career, you see his production was way down but this is more a reflection of his minutes, or volume, than his shooting percentages. Shooting percentages were down as well but it’s not as drastic as one may think:
Since Johnson did not play a lot of minutes it is also valuable to view his per 36 minutes to get a more precise measure of his production:
Unsurprisingly, Johnson’s biggest shooting discrepancy was his free throw percentage, which often can be translated as a lack of focus or reflection of ones mindset. Optimistically, Stanley Johnson’s projected (per 36 minutes) turnovers are down and he did show tiny flashes of his talent throughout the season. On March 8th, he posted a season high 17 points against the Indiana Pacers:
This year Stanley Johnson was an enigma and it must be asked why he had such a sophomore slump? Most signs, at this time, point to Johnson’s lack of maturity and work ethic. Earlier this season, Coach/President of Basketball Operations, Stan Van Gundy questioned his drive and dedication. SVG also benched SJ for not knowing the scouting report, or in other words, not being prepared.
Other signs may point to where Stanley’s head is at:
Fortunately, towards the end of the season Johnson started to “get it” and made strides on and off the court. In February, SVG stated, “he’s gotten a lot better at making plays in there. The challenge in the paint is getting to shots and finishing more consistently, which will draw more people to him and open up more plays” and “he’s gotten a lot better on his pull-up jumper and making plays.” Most recent reports out of Auburn Hills have stated Johnson is even open to playing in the Orlando Summer League.
Overall, Johnson is a 20-year-old young man trying to find his game and self in the toughest basketball league in the world. If Stanley continues to progress and shows the same work ethic he had in high school/college, his athleticism and size gives him the potential to be a great swingman in the NBA. His willingness to practice all summer and play in the Summer League is a good start but time will tell if Stanley can take that “next step.”
Featured Image: Jason Miller/Getty Images