Detroit Pistons midseason grades: Small forwards edition

In our continuing midseason grades series, it’s time to turn our eye to the Detroit Pistons small forwards and assign grades.

The Detroit Pistons have a unique small forward situation. Aside from starter Marcus Morris, they have Reggie Bullock (perhaps more of a shooting guard), Stanley Johnson (do-it-all wing) and Tobias Harris, listed as a power forward but has played 43 percent of his minutes over the course of his career at small forward.

The Pistons’ roster composition and rotation are a good argument for doing away with the five-position descriptor in favor of something more apt like ball-handler/initiator, wing, and big. That’s an argument for a different day, however.

For the sake of these grades, we’re going to focus just on Morris and Johnson, as we covered Bullock in the shooting guards edition of these grades and Harris is for all intents and purposes a power forward on this team.

With no further ado, let’s take a look at our grades for the Detroit Pistons’ small forwards.

Marcus Morris

Stat line: 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, shooting splits of .411/.333/.810, true shooting 50.1 percent.

Grade: C-

At a glance, Marcus Morris appears to have taken a big step back on the offensive end. While it’s true that he’s put forth his worst shooting efficiency since his rookie season, we’re dealing with reduced efficiency in a few offensive categories while in his higher volume usages, he’s very much in line with his career-best numbers.

While he’s almost as efficient spotting up this year as last (1.118 points per possession last year vs 1.052 this year) and significantly more efficient when in isolation (1.083 ppp this year, .806 ppp last year), he’s fallen off a cliff when posting up and when involved in the pick and roll as both the ball handler and the roll man.

Morris was one of the Pistons’ best and most reliable options out of the post last season, but this season he’s scoring just 0.639 points per possession. That number places him in the 11th percentile in the league.

It stands to reason that he might be in the midst of a shooting slump that may yet regress to the mean, but considering he’s coming off a career-best season a year ago, time will tell whether that campaign or this one is the aberration.

Stanley Johnson

Stat line: 3.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, shooting splits of .377/.306/.633, true shooting 46.3 percent. 

Grade: C-

Stanley Johnson’s grade is based on his body of work this season, over which point he’s been demoted from the rotation and seen a reduction in his playing time of about seven minutes per game. He got off to a miserable start, but he’s trending up in a big way.

Johnson had a great showing on the Pistons’ recent West Coast road trip, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jon Leuer being out with injuries, Johnson was called upon for big minutes and he delivered with smart play and defensive tenacity.

Over the five games out west, he played 29 minutes per game and scored 6.8 points per game on 60.7 percent true shooting. Thanks to playing heavy minutes in blowout losses to the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, we’re not going to talk about his defensive rating, but his effort and effectiveness was unmistakable.

Johnson has earned his way back into the rotation, and it’s not just because Darrun Hilliard couldn’t play well enough to keep him out. Keep an eye on him going forward, we may be seeing the early elements of Stanley Johnson putting it all together like we hoped he would.

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