The resurgence and redemption of Stanley Johnson

Nov 9, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Stanley Johnson was widely panned as a wasted 2015 draft pick when his early season performance did not equate to his summer hype. Now, after toughing out a stretch of insecurity and inconsistency, Johnson is showing himself to be the strong player Stan Van Gundy envisioned he’d be for the Detroit Pistons.

Stanley Johnson was a hot topic coming out of the summer of 2016. The Detroit Pistons small forward dominated courts everywhere: in Orlando (Summer League), Toronto (OVO Bounce), Los Angeles (Drew League), and Las Vegas (USA Select Team).

Such dominance could be seen everywhere: highlight after highlight, from a championship game winner in OVO Bounce to a 46 point game in the Drew league, spread all over social media.

Hence, before entering the 2016-2017 NBA season, Stanley Johnson was a walking highlight reel ready to take the league by storm. It was widely believed, not only by Detroit fans but fans everywhere, Johnson would break out and assist the Detroit Pistons in a top-five Eastern Conference seeding.

That hasn’t been the case.

Not only have the Detroit Pistons underperformed, sitting outside the top eight in the East, but so has Johnson.

After a rookie campaign of 8.1 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 23 minutes per game, Johnson’s numbers have dwindled: averaging 4.0 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game, and 16.7 minutes per game this season.

That’s not the Johnson fans expected, so what went wrong?

More from PistonPowered

There was word of Stanley Johnson struggling in practices in preparation of the preseason. Things didn’t improve in the preseason as he missed time due to foot pain.

Thus, entering the 2016-2017 season, Johnson didn’t have the key role or minutes he and others expected. At such point, Johnson’s confidence lessened and frustration kicked in: the ultimate demise to Stan Van Gundy’s dog house.

After being suspended for violating team rules, a sign of frustration, Johnson was vocal about his displeasure with not playing. Stan Van Gundy tried reassuring fans and Johnson there’s a role for him, though believed the young small forward must first improve his work ethic. Johnson later disagreed. “There’s no issue with my work ethic,” Johnson said.

Overall, Johnson’s inability to swiftly transition his dominance from the summer to the NBA lead to frustration, anger, a lack of confidence, lashing out, and poor play. It appeared Johnson’s head, his greatest asset as well as biggest problem, proved to have gotten the best of him.

That’s no longer the case.

Since the start of the new year, Stanley Johnson has been great for the Detroit Pistons.

In Portland, the Pistons had no answer to slow down guard Allen Crabbe in the fourth. Then, Johnson checked in.

Once Johnson began guarding Crabbe, Crabbe had no answer to Johnson. And Johnson’s play, since, has improved.

Johnson has regained some of the offensive confidence he displayed in the summer, while his defensive effort has continued to hold strong. He’s averaged 7.5 points per game since Portland and has made numerous, impressive defensive plays, including a block on Steph Curry.

Then, Saturday night against Washington, it appeared Johnson’s whole game finally came together.

Over the course of 16 minutes, Johnson was four for four with nine points and a block. The forward made great decisions with the ball (besides one turnover) and was a threat coming off screens.

As the numbers may not appear eye popping, one had to be watching to realize Johnson was far more effective than his numbers showed.

Again, it wasn’t the points or shooting percentage that was most impressive, it was the confidence, decision-making, and defensive effort Johnson provided in the Piston’s Saturday win.

Next: Detroit Pistons only going to trade if makes the team better

With Johnson finally playing with confidence and the work ethic Stan Van Gundy criticized, it appears both the once under achieving Johnson and Detroit Pistons are turning a corner.

So watch out Eastern Conference, Stanley Johnson and the Detroit Pistons are on a mission for a top-five seed.