Summer League is an odd place. A strange mix of unproven players to showcase their talent to NBA and overseas teams, old veterans not willing to let the game go quite yet and draft picks who get their first taste of professional ball. For lottery picks, this is often a time to dominate lesser competition. Last year, Stanley Johnson dominated. This year, not so much. But even though he has struggled he has made important progress in expanding his game.
How can a player with a shooting line of 333/.217/1.00 be making progress?
And that's understandable. During the regular season last year, he had a shooting line of .375/.307/.784. And in the playoffs he upped his game with a shooting line of .522/.600/1.00. Well, despite his great playoff shooting numbers, Stan Van Gundy still wanted Johnson to work on his shot over the summer and he's been working with shooting coach Dave Hopla and Pistons associate head coach Bob Beyer on just that.
He cooled off and finished 5-for-13. Tasked with improving his shooting form in the off-season, he was 1-for-6 from three-point range.
He is working on a higher release point for his jump shot, which would enable him to get his shot off against close defenders.
Stan Van Gundy originally wanted to keep Johnson out of Summer League so that he may work on his weaknesses.
From better form on his jump shot and making better plays with his left hand to understanding defensive coverages, Johnson has been at it since the beginning of June, working closely with Beyer during workouts in Los Angeles.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was reluctant to allow Johnson to play in the summer league, publicly musing that it might be better to keep the young player from situations where he might focus more on competition than improvement.
With that in mind, we have to take his shooting numbers with a grain of salt. But he is showing progress in other areas as well. On a per-36 basis, his rebounds and steals are up compared to the regular season last year. Now, you may say "but this is Summer League, he's playing against rookies and unproven players." Yeah, that is true. But it shows that Johnson is continuing to work on affecting the game in multiple facets.
And as will always seem to be the case, even until they both retire, a lot of us Pistons fans relish the chance to make Johnson look better than his "draft villain" (all due to Chad Ford) Justise Winslow. peterveb has a nice Fan Post on yesterday's game and how Johnson had the better game. Overall, they have comparable Summer League stats. (stats from RealGM).
While Johnson is shooting the ball better and getting more rebounds and steals, Winslow is distributing more, taking slightly better care of the ball, and getting blocks. But again, this is just Summer League and all stats need to be taken with a grain of salt.
When the regular season begins, Johnson will have had a couple more months to work on his new shot form and using his left hand when attacking. His efficiency could go through the roof. At the same time, he could never get the hang of it and go back to being the Stanley Johnson of 2015-16. If that is the case, let's hope that it's the Playoff version.
The Pistons take on the Orlando White team this afternoon for the Orlando Summer League championship. Will you be watching?