Forget about it.
That is the mentality third-year forward Stanley Johnson has to have when it comes to his sophomore season in the NBA.
Appearing in 77 games with Detroit last year, Johnson averaged career lows across the board. Johnson’s scoring dropped by nearly fifty percent, as he scored just 4.4 points per game last season after averaging 8.1 points per game in his rookie year. His rebounding dropped to just 2.5 per game and he only averaged 1.4 assists per game. His three-point shooting somehow dropped to 29.2 percent after shooting just 30.7 percent from deep in his rookie season.
Again, Johnson needs to forget about what happened last season.
This offseason has been a busy one for the former Arizona Wildcat. He spent the offseason working hard, after having a very serious and straightforward meeting with Stan Van Gundy at the end of last season.
Here is an excerpt from Stan Van Gundy talking about Stanley Johnson from the Detroit Free Press:
“Stanley’s got to latch on to what he does well right now and what he can be is an elite-level defender, an elite-level rebounder for a wing guy and he’s shown he can make the corner three and then build his offensive game from there instead of taking an approach that he wants to do it all in one step and just be a star.”
Four games into the preseason, we’ve seen a much improved Johnson. He has come into the season in great physical form, something that he did not do last season. Being in good shape has immediately translated to his play on the court, and it is notably impressive watching him compete on the defensive side of the court. He has at one point guarded a player at each position in preseason. The most significant demonstration of his defensive physicality was when Pacers’ center, Ike Anigbogu, posted up on Johnson, only for Johnson to turn him and force him to lose possession of the ball.
Johnson made another nice play when Alex Poythress tried to turn and go baseline, but Johnson responded quickly and nearly forced him out of bounds.
Great defense by Stanley! pic.twitter.com/RklGplrE4q
— Aaron Johnson (@AJohnsonNBA) October 9, 2017
Johnson defensive capabilities, an area of his game that was highly touted coming out of Arizona, will be huge for the Pistons this season. He and Avery Bradley could be one of the most ferocious defensive duos in the NBA, but for Johnson to stick on the floor, his offensive game must improve.
The stats from last season that were previously mentioned are concerning.
But he has flashed improvement. Through four preseason games, Johnson is averaging 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and one assist. Manning the starting small forward spot, Johnson’s numbers have increased and encouragingly so, so has his shooting percentages. Johnson is shooting 41.9 percent from the field, a near seven percent improvement compared to last season. Most importantly, his three-pointer is looking much smoother and he seems to be more comfortable shooting from outside the arc, as he is shooting 43.8 percent from deep.
Yes, it has only been four games, and it is only preseason, but nonetheless, his play is encouraging. He does not have to be a major scoring threat, but as long as he can be efficient on that end and continue to play the staunch defense he is known for, then he can be a key cog for Detroit.
Time will tell for Stanley Johnson, but if he comes into his own, the Pistons will quickly become a much better team.
Featured Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images