The Stanley Johnson era in Detroit is over, not that it really got started in the first place. Johnsonis being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Thon Maker, another disappointing lottery pick without much of future with the team that drafted him.
The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski.
Johnson had worn out his welcome in Detroit — a player who had clear gifts on the defensive end who could never put together enough offensive consistency to help in a team in dire need of production on that end of the floor.
Maker, meanwhile, can’t seem to find playing time on a stacked and high-performing Bucks team. He has Brook Lopez in front of him at center and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova and even DJ Wilson ahead of him at power forward.
Maker showed some promise early in his career as a springy stretch big who was definitely a project, but could turn into something down the line. Johnson, meanwhile, has had nothing but chances in Detroit (nearly 6,000 career minutes over four season) and despite a reputation as a dynamic two-way player he’s never shot well enough to be a plus player.
His true shooting percentage has been sub-50 percent his entire career and while he has plenty of strength he is a below the rim player who struggles to finish at the rim. A player who can’t shoot from the perimeter and can’t finish doesn’t have much of a role.
The key for both players and both franchises is a change of scenery. Two highly touted lottery picks didn’t work out and neither looked long for their original team. In Johnson, the Bucks get a stout defender who can guard 2s, 3s and 4s and as long as you don’t ask him to provide anything (and I mean ANYTHING) on offense, he’ll give you quality minutes. He could reasonably guard just about anyone on the Sixers other than Joel Embiid, for instance.
In Maker, the Pistons get a project big man who could turn into a stretch 5 and help alleviate years of perimeter woes. If Detroit can slot a stretch-5 next to Blake and really open up the floor for him to work without needing him to guard centers that is ideal.
Another crucial point from the Pistons’ perspective — Maker has another year of team control and then Detroit will control his free agency as well. This is a 1.5 season audition for Maker before he enters restricted free agency.
Johnson had already had a four-year audition and failed. His contract was up after this season, and Detroit did not seem interested in retaining him in restricted free agency. Getting a lottery pick with skills you are desperate for at a position of need for a player you were going to let walk anyway is a win for Detroit.
If the Pistons are committed to sending out assets without much of a future on the team, then the next shoe to drop would likely be Ish Smith, who is in the final year of his contract.
If the Pistons trade Ish and seriously commit to Jose Calderon as their backup point guard, then I would think the team is completely pivoting to a youth development approach to the season. That means Svi, Maker, Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Luke Kennard might see plenty of minutes going forward.