This is the 7th season preview after a bit of a break because I was busy. Hopefully I can get through the rest of them before the season starts lol.
Where he is now:
At the age of 20 years old Stanley is entering the 2nd year of his rookie scale contract making just under $3 million this year, with 3 years left on his contract (including this year). HE figures to be at least the backup SF and essentially the Pistons 6th man again and first guy off the bench.
What to generally expect from him this year:
He figures to be the first guy off the bench, spending time at SG and SF, and even occasional time at PG and PF if the need arises. Depending on how good Bullock/Hilliard/Gbinje end up being this year will have a major impact on how much playing time Johnson ends up having, since if one (or more) of them can emerge as quality players who deserve minutes, Stanley is likely the one who will be losing some minutes, particularly at the SG spot. Also, if KCP or Morris were to struggle this year, Stanley could well end up taking minutes from either of those guys as well. Either way, Stanley figures to get an expanded role in some way or another this year.
Early in the year, Stanley figures to get a larger offensive role because he (hopefully) will be more comfortable being a primary ball handler with the bench mob which will be helpful regardless of if McCallum or Brown is playing point guard. Once Jackson returns though, Stanley figures to be in a similar role as last year, Ish should be the secondary ball handler behind Ish with the bench mob, running pick and rolls with Aron Baynes, and hopefully regaining the nice chemistry they had last year. He will also likely spend a decent amount of times playing with the starters playing off the ball more.
The worry is that he has too much on his plate, as last year he showed that he has a lot of potential in almost every area, which is why he has so much upside. The problem is that the potential doesn't always turn into real stuff, so he could end up being an all star who can do everything on the court, but he could also end up being Jeff Green. The reality is that he will probably not end up making huge strides with every part of his game, young guys almost never end up being as good as their potential. I think in some ways it would be better if he focused hard on just one or two things to make sure he figures them out, instead of just a little bit on everything. That said, he is well known as a very hard worker, and he does have the potential.
Essentially he was mediocre at everything last year on offense, and turning some of that mediocrity into good will be key to his year this year. It won't be everything, but even if he can take good steps forwards in one or two areas, like maybe he shoots 35% from 3 this year, maybe he manages to up his assists a bit while lowering his turnovers. Who knows, he just needs to get some sort of improvement to his game.
The story is much better here. He was just 19 last year so he had plenty of gaffs on defense, and I think SVG put it best with a guy like Stanley. Hugely talented individual defender, but it is hard to play good team defense with him on the floor. That said, by the end of the year last year he was starting to harness his immense defensive potential to good results on the defensive end, and the early returns in the preseason have been good on this end as well.
It is too much to expect a fully formed defensive monster this year (KCP took 3 years to become an elite defender and even now has some room to grow a bit) but it is not too much to expect him to make a real step forwards into becoming better as a team defender and hopefully result in him closing more games when the opponent has a top level big wing scorer. Essentially, hope that Marcus Morris is spending less time guarding LeBron and Stanley is spending more time.
Another big thing for him on defense, is that as a big long athlete, he can be super disruptive off the ball as a destroyer of worlds type of guy who is getting in passing lanes and blocking shots. This will be a good way to judge if he has really progressed as a team defender, because he has the tools to be awesome in this respect.
Stanley works his tail off, although does not always come off as, per say, the brightest guy (on or off the court) but sometimes that is ok when you are too foolish to realize you should shut your mouth. (The whole getting in LeBron's head thing.) And SVG has admitted that Stanley can be challenging to coach because he is so confident, which could in theory become a problem at some point. But as of now, SVG also says that he would rather Stanley be challenging to coach and hella confident than easy to coach and not so confident, because that confidence causes his fire to burn very hot on the court in games and when he is working on his game. So while it is something to just keep in the back of your head in the coming years, for now I'm cool with it.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Stanley Johnson is getting lots of comparisons to Ron Artest for reasons other than fighting people.
He shoots 35% from 3.
He gets close to 2 times as many assists as turnovers.
When he and KCP share the floor, other teams just basically give up trying to score points.
Run for the hills if:
Bricks. Lots of bricks.
More turnovers than assists.
Still getting punked by savvy offensive players into jumping out of position and commiting dumb fouls.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Stanley shoots 33% from 3.
Turnovers stay a problem.
His defense takes a BIG step forwards.
What do you think? How will Stanley do this year? Let me know! We all get smarter!