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2017-18 Detroit Pistons preview: Stanley Johnson’s third season could be make or break

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His offense needs to come around this year.

Make or break, the phrase commonly used to describe Stanley Johnson’s upcoming 2017-18 campaign. The doubters voice is louder than ever, and at this point, who can blame them? After a solid rookie season, and showing in the 2015-16 Playoffs, where Stanley (over)confidently faced up with LeBron James, doing so in impressive fashion, mind you, the Detroit faithful were excited for his sophomore year.

That excitement lasted an entire week.

2016-17 Review

Last season, Stanley started off the year by scoring six points in his first five games, while averaging 18 minutes per game. It wasn’t pretty. Take a look.

Basketball Reference

From there, it did not get much better. Johnson struggled to stay on the floor, and when he was getting ample playing time, it was often out of position as the back-up shooting guard. He was eventually benched by Stan Van Gundy, sent down to the Grand Rapids Drive, and even found himself behind Darrun Hillard on the depth chart. This was all before January.

Johnson finished 2016-17 averaging 4.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 67 percent from the line, 35 percent from the floor, and 29 percent from three, all lower averages than his rookie season. And while it’s not extremely uncommon for young players to regress in certain areas during their sophomore season, the fact that Johnson severely slumped in all major offensive categories is a serious cause for concern as the former number eight overall pick enters his third season.

2017-18 Projection

Looking forward to 2017-18, Johnson will be named the starting small forward entering the season. He’ll be tasked with a larger role in Stan Van Gundy’s scheme, and will be relied upon to be more than a net zero on the offensive side of the ball.

Most everyone around the Pistons organization already know what Johnson can do on the defensive side of the ball, he’s shown an ability to D up some of the best wings in the league, and will be relied upon next season to guard the opponents first or second best wing on a nightly basis. But, as was stated in Johnson’s Pistons Tune Up, it’s all about offense for the third year player next season.

Depending on how Van Gundy plans to utilize Andre Drummond, Johnson will enter next season as the fourth or fifth scoring option in the starting line-up. This isn’t necessarily a knock on Johnson’s offensive skill-set. Detroit has been one of the most balanced scoring starting line-ups in the NBA over the past two seasons, with no starter averaging more than 20 or less than 13 points per game. You should expect a similar balance next season.

One area where Detroit could utilize Johnson’s hopefully improved offensive skill-set will be with the three point shot. Johnson has altered his jump shot and averaged 44 percent from three during the preseason. And while it’s unlikely that he’ll be a 40 percent plus three point shooter for the entire season, if he could manage to average 35 percent plus, that’ll do wonders for the spatially challenged Pistons, who finished 28th in three point shooting percentage, 26th in three point attempts per game and dead last in true shooting percentage last season.

You should also expect to see Johnson relied upon more in play making scenarios, not simply sitting in the corner waiting for spot ups off Jackson and Bradley dribble drives. So far this preseason, Van Gundy has praised his ability to find open players. "What he's bringing is the energy that we want, and he's making plays for other people. I've been really happy with his approach in both games have been very, very good." (via Detroit Free Press).

Offensively speaking, if Johnson is able to help Detroit in those two areas, shooting and playmaking, that’ll lead to some much needed spacing for the once least efficient offense in the entire NBA.

Should you expect a major jump from Johnson next season? Hell yes. All Summer and Fall, the word out of Detroit has been that Johnson has seriously matured on and off the court. This amplified sense of maturity, a larger role in the Pistons rotation, and an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong should lead to a much-improved Stanley Johnson in 2017-18.

Prediction

11 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 46% field goal percentage, 36% three point percentage, and an unrelinquished spot in the starting rotation.