Stanley Johnson and the Detroit Pistons are a match made in heaven. And apparently, Stan Van Gundy likes the fit so much that he passed over Justise Winslow, a small forward who was surprisingly available at No. 8, and picked Johnson anyway.
Detroit is extremely thin at small forward. When Detroit lost last season, especially during the post-Smith era when the team occasionally looked competent, defense was usually the culprit. They also could really use another scorer on the wing, especially projecting their current core out long term.
Johnson is a small forward, so that's good. He's also a terrific defender with outstanding size who can lock down multiple positions. He also scored at a higher rate last season than any other small forward - better than Justise Winslow, Mario Hezonja, Kelly Oubre, or Sam Dekker. Folks, this dude was the leading scorer for a 34-4 team at 18 years old. You don't see that a whole lot.
So here's what I wrote on Johnson last week, previewing first round prospects:
Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona, 19 years old: For much of the season, Johnson was rated as the top small forward in the draft thanks to his combination of size, defensive ability, and serving as the leading scorer for his 34-4 Arizona Wildcats. He was considered a poor shooter coming into college, but answered doubters by shooting a very respectful 37 percent from three point range. Winslow and Johnson have an awful lot in common as prospects with their age and two-way talent. Johnson's critics have pointed to his poor finishing in college (40 percent in the paint) and shooting form as evidence that he'll struggle to score at the next level - and he likely will his first couple years. But his defensive ability should make him ready to contribute early in his career. For what it's worth, Johnson was the most popular pick in the DBB offseason plan project earlier this month.
Now, Draymond Green's success this season has led to all sorts of folks scouring the second round to discover who the next Draymond Green is. Which is weird, because Johnson looks like a rich man's Green.They have nearly identical builds and athleticism, though Johnson has been far more successful earlier in his career. But he's been right in front of scouts through Green's ascent, and Johnson's fallen to the point that the Pistons have been fortunate enough to nab him.
Don't pencil Johnson in as the starter just yet though. It's almost certainly going to take some time for him to carve his role out in the NBA, especially on the offensive end. Hell, look at Green. He had a 40 percent true shooting percentage as a rookie, 49.8 his second year. That stinks. But it's probably where Johnson is at. Scoring at the NBA level on the wing isn't easy, especially when you're not a natural at the rim or behind the arc.
Even if that's the case, it doesn't mean he's not on pace to be an excellent player. Just the starting small forward dilemma problem isn't solved. Still, be excited. Three years from now, the Pistons are in position to be one of the happiest teams in this year's draft.
13.8 points per game on 55 percent true shooting, 1.1 three pointers per game on 37.1 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, .4 blocks, 2.2 turnovers.
Twitter profile: @iAmSJ
Welcome to Detroit, Stanley!