Last January as the Pistons were coming off a win in Los Angeles against the Lakers, I showered some praise on Stanley Johnson for his improved shot selection and patience, among other things. At that point Stanley had been (at least I thought) taking baby steps in the right direction, but as we all came to realize the momentum or baby steps, or whatever you’d like to call it, didn’t last very long for Stanley or for the Pistons.
But with the Pistons surging, winning five of their last six, let’s explore if Johnson has turned any corners or not.
Looking at the raw numbers, Stanley has gone 10-21 from three point range in the five games since the start of the California trip. Prior to the trip, Stanley was just 3-18 from deep, and at that point some of us thought that Stanley might just be better suited to play in the NFL instead. I’ve been hearing the Detroit Lions need a better tight end.
Make no mistake, Stanley’s offense doesn’t live or die by shooting the three ball, but it is a shot that’s obviously going to be there for him repeatedly in this offense. If he continues to knock them down and keep defenses honest, it’s only going to open up the floor for him to break down the defense and further create for himself and others.
It’s obvious around the league that Stanley isn’t known as a sniper, and with his shooting struggles crystal clear right out of the gate, Willie Reed and Draymond Green weren’t in a huge hurry to get a hand up, almost daring him to shoot. Stanley takes his time and shoots in rhythm.
I’m not certain when it exactly started (last season or perhaps during his rookie season?), but Stanley’s weird leg kicking out habit on some of his jump shots is concerning. He tends to kick them out on his three point attempts. It’s something that can’t go unnoticed for long: it’s a once you see it, you can’t unsee it type of thing. It’s been referred to as a corkscrew type of action.
He’s still doing it, but seemingly not nearly as often. He might revert to this form when he’s fatigued or when rushing his shot. Or both simultaneously. Who knows if he’s doing it on purpose, but no matter whether if he’s consciously kicking his legs out or not, let’s just chalk it up to being a stubborn phase. It will pass.
Actually, over this three game Cali swing Stanley’s whole body when shooting is more quiet than usual. It’s more balanced and fluid in motion. At least it sure seems that way more times than not. So, can he can kick the leg kick habit for good? We’ll see. It may just rear it’s ugly head from time to time. Something to monitor anyway.
We all seem to agree on Stanley’s confidence being sky high this season - and while that’s usually a great thing - at times it might mean he sees something he likes for himself going toward the basket, but rushes it. He needs to trust his shot making ability and to trust that he’s not going to be rejected. With these following two plays I think he’s got to go all the way to the hoop to try to get a foul call (only four free throws shot in last five games).
Though, I do like the floater attempt, as it was a strong, direct move with zero second guessing - however, going full speed and putting up a touch shot such as a floater is a tough task. Stanley just rushes the shot, maybe because he fears Kevin Durant beside him. Can’t blame him too much. Stanley needs to work on keeping the defender on his hip and ease into the shot like, say, Tony Parker did so many times in his career. Stanley will get it. Finally, in the second clip Stanley jumps off the wrong foot in a rather wild attempt. He got excited and I don’t think he intended to do that.
Stanley playing cool, calm and collected is something we certainly should expect. It’s his third year in the league and it’s not like he’s been riding the pine the whole time. Here he is with a patient drive and heady bounce pass in traffic to Andre on the secondary fast break. That’s it...reward the big fella for running the floor! Stanley could have gone to the hoop all guns blazing, but instead he settled for the safer choice: a good, solid basketball play.
21-year-old Stanley Johnson is still a work in progress, and while that’s no real surprise, he’s been a factor of sorts in the team’s early season good start - and it’s not only because he’s a willing and talented defensive player. Stanley can be and should be a talented and reliable weapon on offense, too. If he becomes much more consistent and chooses his spots better, this Detroit basketball team becomes quite a bit more potent.