Who's Stanley Johnson? Is he the LeBron stopper?

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 3:43 PM

On Wednesday night Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson made news for his comments about LeBron James. "I'm definitely in his head, that'south for sure," Johnson said after the Pistons' Game two loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Who's Stanley Johnson? Is he the LeBron stopper?

ESPN Insider'south Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton continue their series of rookie and sophomore evaluations with a closer see at Detroit'south brash nineteen-year-old rookie, Stanley Johnson.

On Wednesday night Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson made news for his comments about LeBron James. "I'm definitely in his head, that'south for sure," Johnson said after the Pistons' Game two loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Naturally for some the question is, who's Stanley Johnson? Is he the kind of player who can compete with LeBron?

As portion of a deep rookie class, Johnson, the No. eight overall pick, has flown below the radar most of his first season coming off the bench for Detroit. That'south changed in a large way this week, with Johnson drawing attention for defending James, the four-time MVP, and then declaring he was in LeBron'south head.

Johnson'south comments came just after the Cavs had won, 107-90, to get a 2-0 lead in the series. LeBron finished with twenty-seven points and, according to ESPN Stats & Information, was 6-for-6 against Johnson as his primary defender.

What should we create of Johnson? Casual NBA fans who didn't chase the Pistons closely mightn't have seen much of Johnson this season, so let'south speak about his game, his future ... and of course his trash talk.

I don't think Johnson'south comments would arrive as a enormous astonishment to the AZ coaching staff, since his brash personality was a challenge at times during Johnson'south one college season in Tucson. Is this just who he's as a player and person?

The scouting report on Johnson

From a personality perspective, none of this is a surprise. Johnson won four state titles in high school. Ultra-competitiveness and confidence have always been his strengths, along with a NBA-ready body.

It'south the other things -- lack of a consistent 3-point shot, an inability to finish at the rim over athletic defenders and questionable shot selection -- that caused scouts to debate just how excellent he'd be.

Earlier this mo (and in December) we ranked the top ten rookies in terms of long-term potential. Neither of us included Johnson in our rankings. What were the issues you or the stats saw, Kevin?

Yeah, that scouting report matches up well with why Johnson didn't rate well statistically as a rookie. His large shortcoming was an inability to score efficiently.

Johnson made just 30.7 % of his 3-point attempts (his 3-of-6 shooting from downtown so distant in this series has been uncharacteristic) and wasn't much better (41.0 percent) interior the arc. The sprained shoulder Johnson suffered just after the All-Star crack did show up to obstruct him, and his shooting numbers were even worse in the second half. But even before the All-Star break, Johnson'south true shooting percentage of 47.4 % was below the Antoine Walker Line (fifty percent).

Johnson probably needs to slice long 2-pointers out of his game, having shot just 26.5 % on shots between sixteen feet and the 3-point line according to Basketball-Reference. com (and taken more than ten % of his shots from that range).

Johnson'south athleticism

Still, as you noted, he'south not an accurate finisher around the basket, making a below-average 53.9 % of his shots interior three feet.

His size and strength should authorize him to finish better than that, right?

You'd think. But he'd the same problem at the college level. While Johnson looks the portion of an elite athlete, I don't actually think he'south the explosiveness vertically or laterally to be an elite finisher in the NBA.

I also think that hampers him on the defensive end. I know Johnson thinks he'south in LeBron's head, but I don't look it. He'south powerful and he competes, but I think that lack of athleticism (combined with being nineteen years old) will hold him from being an elite defender.

Stanley a stopper?

What do you see? Maybe the numbers tell a different legend about his defensive prowess.

I think it'south more about being 19 than athleticism. At 6-foot-8, two hundred forty, he'south an ideal matchup for physical combo forwards love James, yet also has sufficient quickness to defend on the perimeter, so he can guard a variety of positions. Still, individual defense is a relatively tiny portion of a player'south defensive impact and the overall numbers on Johnson'south defense aren't great. His defensive RPM (minus-0.7) ranked seventieth among tiny forwards. That'll surely make better as he adds experience but makes it unlikely Johnson gets to an elite level.

So when we keep that package together, what's Johnson'south long-term potential? As you mentioned, neither of us had him in our top ten rookies ranked by that criteria.

Johnson vs. Winslow

I was somewhat notorious for tweeting on draft night that the Pistons made the first error of the night when they passed on Justise Winslow to draft Johnson.

While Johnson was the superior offensive player, I felt that Winslow had the skill to be an elite defensive player because of his superior athleticism. Elite defense trumped so-so offense.

So distant I think the results have borne that out. I look Winslow making an All-Defensive Team someday. I'm don't look Johnson making an "all anything." That isn't to declare he won't obtain better or won't be valuable to the Pistons. He'south already proven to be valuable.

But I don't think he'll finish up being one of the top ten players in this draft in five years. I still have much more confidence that Winslow will be.

What about you, Kevin? Where do you stand on the Winslow/Johnson debate and his future impact?

We're on the same page here. Winslow had distant more impact on the Heat'south team defense, which is why he earned honorable mention in my All-Defensive picks. Even though Winslow struggled offensively, I still love his long-term potential. Unfortunately for Johnson, in addition to Winslow several other players drafted in the late lottery showed more promise.

Still, I don't think we should rate Johnson'south career based on the players taken after him. They won't prevent him from helping Detroit, as you mention. Despite Johnson'south destitute statistical production as a rookie, his SCHOENE comparables are still favorable because of his age. Most similar players, including Marvin Williams as his closest comparison and Pistons teammate Tobias Harris, tended to expand into starters.

If that's the path Johnson follows, there will be plenty more matchups with LeBron in his future -- and opportunities to back up his boastful comments.

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