As everybody started giving their reactions and analyzing the Pistons acquisition of Blake Griffin, my first reaction was how this will effect the rest of the roster. We have already gone over who the options are for the new starting lineup are. One thing that is being overlooked is the impact on the Pistons two young wings Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard.
Whether either player is ready or not, it is time for them to grow up quickly if this Blake Griffin experiment is going to work out.
We don’t know yet what Stan Van Gundy is going to do with the starting lineup. One thing that we do know is that the Pistons lost a bit of depth on the wing by sending out Avery Bradley. Yes, he wasn’t having the best season, but he was still playing 31.7 minutes per game and that now needs to be replaced.
The two players who are likely to benefit the most and take these extra minutes are Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard.
Luke Kennard is going to be an essential piece for this Blake Griffin-Andre Drummond frontline to work. The rookie is hitting on 43 percent of his three pointers this season and he is going to be relied on to be one of the Pistons main floor spacers for the twin towers.
The Pistons have put all of their eggs into the Luke Kennard basket now, and he is going to have to prove that his shooting can translate to a larger role that is likely against starters. That is a risky proposition for a team hoping to make the playoffs and the only way it won’t be risky is if Luke Kennard is able to grow up quickly and seize the opportunity.
As for Stanley Johnson, he likely won’t move into the starting lineup. He is only shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc this season, and it would be a spacing nightmare with him, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond. Blake Griffin has improved from range as he is shooting 34 percent on 5.7 attempts. However, Reggie Bullock has started a majority of his games at small forward and is shooting 44 percent this season. Bullock is likely going to continue to start.
Stanley Johnson is going to have to pick up for the loss of Avery Bradley on defense. He is now going to be the player responsible for guarding the opposing team’s best player whether that be a guard or a forward. He no longer has Avery Bradley to hound guards while he locks down the opposing team’s best forward. While I trust him to fill this role, he is going to have to grow up and improve on offense for this to not be a disaster.
As mentioned above, the Pistons have lost some depth and will likely rely on Stanley Johnson to be the sixth man in a similar role to what he had as a rookie. A 47 TS percent is not going to cut it. The Pistons are going to be weak on firepower off the bench and they simply cannot make Stanley Johnson a fifth option like he would be as a starter. He is going to get more shot attempts, and hopefully those attempts are inside instead of mostly catch-and-shoot threes when he is a starter.
Stanley Johnson has seemed a bit more comfortable off the bench this season than he was as a starter. He is going to have to use that comfort to grow up quickly and seize his opportunity.
The Blake Griffin trade could be a disaster. He could be hurt the entire time or age poorly and be an albatross contract. Regardless of what happens with Blake Griffin, this is Luke Kennard’s and Stanley Johnson’s trial-by-fire. Whether they are up to the task will show more about the Pistons future than Blake Griffin.