Pistons Lead

Stanley Thriving In Bench Role

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In the midst of a make or break season for Stanley Johnson, he seems to have found his niche– coming off the bench.

The Decision

Thirteen games ago, Dwane Casey made the decision to move Glenn Robinson III into the starting lineup in lieu of Johnson. For a young player who seemingly thrives on his self-confidence and bravado, that was a bold move. Stanley has responded fantastically and was key in a great team win over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. He contributed 19 points on 8/16 shooting, 3-7 from three, and was a pest all night against Kevin Durant on the defensive end. Let’s take a closer look at the production Stanley’s provided from the bench and the impact he’s had on the team since the move.

Before and After

To understand the drastic improvement, it’s necessary to review his numbers prior to the move to the bench. In seven games as a starter, he averaged just seven points per game on 35% shooting from the field overall and an abysmal 25% from three-point range. Once moved to the bench, these numbers shot up to 12 points per game on 46% shooting from the field and 35% from three. This improvement isn’t simply explained by Johnson finding himself more comfortable as a 6th man.

What’s the Secret Sauce?

This is a matter of fit and play style– his game doesn’t pair well with two primary ball handlers in Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson.

Johnson has thrived with the up-tempo offense the bench unit loves to run with Ish Smith handling the rock primarily. Since being moved to the bench, Stanley has broken through as a another guy the Pistons can trust to handle the ball in transition. This is evident by the jump in his usage rate once being moved to the reserve role: 22.3% up from just 15% with the starting unit. The difference is also shown by the nearly three extra points game he’s scoring off fast break opportunities.

Team Impact

Most importantly the move has drastically impacted winning. The team currently sports a 9-3 record with Johnson coming off the bench. But upon taking a closer look there’s another trend emerging for Detroit. In wins, he averages about 12 points per game with splits of 45/37/80. This is a small sample size of course but we’ve reached the quarter way mark in the NBA calendar.

Trends begin emerge at this point in the year and it seems that Stanley Johnson could be emerging as the Pistons X-factor. We’d be remiss to not mention his phenomenal defense and the fact that he’s had this impact while consistently taking on the toughest match-up each night.

Here to stay?

At age 22, he enters restricted free agency this summer. Detroit’s reached decision time: is he a part of their long-term plans? If so, does a Johnson extension look similar to Justise Winslow‘s of the Miami Heat? Winslow inked a three-year, $39 million extension with the Heat this season. If the Pistons think that price is too steep, they could look to include Johnson in a package for a bigger piece before the deadline.

Either way, this is a make or break season for Stanley– and he’s come to play.

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