Stanley Johnson In A Sophomore Slump

January 12, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles the basketball against Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pistons 127-107. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson has dramatically declined in statistical output this season, but the Detroit Pistons’ forward is showing signs of progress.

After being selected eighth overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2015 draft, Stanley Johnson had a stellar season for his team. He averaged  an impressive 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks during the 2015 Summer League.

Highlights for last season included recording 20 points and seven rebounds in a loss against the Golden State Warriors and scoring a career-high of 22 points with five rebounds and two assists in a win against the New York Knicks.

But things have changed for Johnson and the Pistons this season. Not only has Johnson under-performed, but the Pistons have been on the decline, especially in terms of their defense.

Johnson is currently averaging about half of what he averaged last season with 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He was even assigned to the D-League in December before he was immediately recalled.

Fewer minutes have not helped Johnson this season. He is currently averaging 16.6 minutes per game, which is about seven fewer than last season. Johnson’s personal struggles,along with the addition of new players such as Jon Leuer, have contributed to less playing time.

Johnson’s role with the Pistons has diminished by a lot this season as he is no longer in the rotation. According to USA TODAY sports, head coach Stan Van Gundy described Johnson’s work ethic as “inconsistent.”

But Johnson seems to be changing the narrative of his performance this season by doing one simple measure. He has worked harder. In order to improve his speed, Johnson lost about 20 pounds at the beginning of the year.

He has also stayed later after games to work on his jump shot.

His hard work has paid off. It has led to increased minutes and Johnson’s role less ambiguous.

“He’s gotten a lot better at making plays in there. The challenge in the paint is getting to shots and finishing more consistently, which will draw more people to him and open up more plays. He’s gotten a lot better on his pull-up jumper and making plays. Now, it’s a work in progress extending his range. He’s shot the corner 3 well all year, but he’s got to do a better job on his long 3 and his finishes”, said Van Gundy, according to the Detroit News.

When Jon Leuer and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were out with injuries last month, Johnson stepped up on the offensive end, recording six assists in a road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 15.

Although Johnson has made progress on the offensive end this year, he still has some work to do. He is not going to be able to get the same shots that he was getting last season. So, Johnson must adjust to his team’s system.

Johnson definitely has the talent to be a star for the Pistons. His size and speed allows him to play both the small forward and shooting guard positions.

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