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Breaking Down Stanley Johnson’s Game With Detroit Bad Boys

Answers from Pistons experts to our burning questions about the newest Buck

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We may still be blowing the dust off the news of the Stanley Johnson-Thon Maker swap, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to get a better look at what the newest Bucks offers this squad. We checked in with the Detroit Pistons experts over Detroit Bad Boys to better understand why Johnson hasn’t panned out as a prospect, what he may offer this Bucks team and what’s been up with his poor 3-point shooting. Big thanks to Managing Editor Sean Corp for the assist, and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @Sean_Corp to keep tabs on Thon Maker’s on-court theatrics.

1. Coming out of the draft Stanley Johnson seemed like a guy who could play the 3 with the bulk to also work as a 4. What do you think Stanley Johnson’s best position is?

Currently, I think Stanley Johnson’s best position is as a small-ball four off the bench who can defend multiple spots. He can body people down on the block as well as keep up with people on the perimeter. He can switch defensively without hurting your defense, and Detroit used him to defend who was giving the team the most trouble including larger point guards at times. However, the biggest reason he is more suited to the four is because it’s nearly impossible to be an effective small forward with no shooting ability.

2. What’s up with his 3-point shooting? He was a decent shooter in college and has a good percentage from the charity stripe. Are these easy shots he’s flat-out missing or is he taking difficult shots that deflate his average. Or is there something wrong with his form?

I think the key word in your question is flat. He is an awful shooter because his form is horrible and he has never fixed it. He shoots at a low angle in front of his face and it is an incredibly flat shot. Science tells us this means there is much less room for error because there is less exposed surface area on the shot path (I think that’s how it works).

I think Peter Nygaard said it best -- Stanley Johnson’s eFG% beyond 4 feet is .397. His field goal percentage from beyond 4 feet is .314. That is .... really bad. Unfortunately, he’s also a below-the-rim player he also doesn’t get to the rim very often.

3. How has he adapted from Stan Van Gundy’s system to Dwane Casey’s? Has his role changed drastically and how do you think he would fit into a system like Bud’s, that prioritizes running to the arc and shooting?

I think he has had similar struggles in both Van Gundy’s and Casey’s systems. That is because on the offensive end, Johnson is a C+ talent in every facet of the game, which made him even less effective than his talent level because there was no niche he could fill. He couldn’t be a catch-and-shoot player. He couldn’t be a point forward because his handle and vision weren’t strong enough. He could post-up opponents and he didn’t have the quicks to push the pace. He was just sort of ... out there and asked to mostly stay out of the way.

I’m fascinated how Budenholzer plans on using him because he seems to be the antithesis of a Coach Bud player. That being said, he will be able to provide plenty on the defensive end. So Bud can put him out there to guard whoever is causing problems, and the Bucks will be able to surround him with so much offensive ability that they can literally ask him to do nothing on offense.

4. His defensive versatility and ability seems like the most tantalizing aspect of his skill set. Is there enough impact there to offset his poor offensive performance and are there any notable defensive games you can recall Bucks’ fans could watch to get an idea of his potential?

Stanley Johnson has played all those minutes in the NBA for two reasons 1. A franchise has a vested interest in showing how they didn’t blow a lottery pick (they did). 2. He was routinely the best defender on the floor for the Pistons throughout his tenure.

Some examples of his strong play -- Nov. 14 he locked down Kawhi Leonard in the second half in a surprising upset win. The final play was Leonard vs. Johnson and Johnson was able to keep him from driving and Leonard couldn’t finish.

5. How is his passing, dribbling and driving ability? Since he was hired, Bud has talked about wanting guys who can shoot, dribble and pass, but I don’t know how multi-faceted Johnson has been since making the leap to the NBA. Is there still potential to scratch there?

Hmmmm .... Passing = B. Dribbling = C- Driving Ability = B-. Now, a few caveats. He can make smart passes, but he doesn’t have huge court awareness. If there is an opportunity in front of him he will take advantage. But there won’t be any no-look point forward type action. His dribbling is pretty damn terrible. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that his defender isn’t threatened by him either shooting it or finishing at the rim. His driving ability is the hardest to quantify. He can drive past defenders. He can get into small areas. The one thing he can’t do is get above the rim.

Let me give you a number. Twenty-seven. That is Johnson’s number of dunks. In his career. That is almost 6,000 minutes and 27 dunks. And don’t forget that 31.4 percent shooting beyond 4 feet.

Let me finish by saying, I am lower on Stanley Johnson than several Pistons fans. A lot of people think he is miscast as nothing but a player who stands in the corner and can’t shoot. They think he needs a change of scenery and a role conducive to his skills. But, for me, I’m not sad to see him go.