Stanley Johnson’s last scheduled predraft workout came Monday with the Pistons. It wouldn’t be a stunner if his next NBA workout came as a Pistons employee.
Last week’s trade that reeled in Ersan Ilyasova gives the Pistons their likely starting power forward if they lose Greg Monroe in free agency and they’re set at the other three positions, as well. Small forward is their clear need and Johnson is a leading candidate to help fill it with the No. 8 pick in next week’s draft.
“Hopefully, everything’s pointing to me getting picked here,” Johnson said. “I think all teams need a wing. I think highly of myself, so if it’s open for me and it makes sense for them, go ahead and pull the trigger.”
Johnson has worked out for two teams picking ahead of the Pistons, the Knicks (No. 4) and Nuggets (No. 7).
What the Pistons would ideally want in a small forward is athleticism, defensive proficiency and versatility, 3-point shooting and the ability to make plays off the dribble. Johnson shows the promise to give them something from every category.
“I bring a lot more to the table than 3 and D,” he said, a reference to the role-playing wings who offer a 3-point shot and sound defense almost exclusively. “Three and D guys tend to be stiff. I’m a guy who can put the ball on the floor. My best asset is getting into mid-range and pulling up, getting to the rim off the bounce, also play defense at a high level as well. A 3 and D guy I think would be an understatement for myself.”
The question on Johnson is just how athletic he really is, sparked by difficulties scoring inside the paint as an Arizona freshman.
“Very overblown,” Johnson said. “People, they’ve got to write stories, so they want to nitpick at people’s games. Everybody has one or two things that’s not true they put out there and it’s oversold. Six-seven, 240 – I mean, there’s not many people that are going to jump with me and block my shot at the rim.”
Johnson said to the extent he had trouble scoring inside in college it was due to the change of emphasis in the college block-charge rule last year and about his own decision making.
“Through my whole career, from high school to even before college, I was one of the best finishers at the rim through contact. It makes no sense to me. That’s more of a media thing, by the way. No team has ever really talked about that to me.”
Johnson played point guard in high school, he said, leading Santa Ana Mater Dei to four straight California state titles, and Arizona used him fairly often to initiate pick-and-roll action. He said the Pistons are intrigued by his ability to make plays off the dribble at small forward.
“As (Pistons scout) Speedy (Walker) was saying, they want a gorilla,” Johnson said. “They want somebody who can make plays at a high level off the dribble, cutting, whatever way you can bring it. They have a lot of pieces here. They have inside pieces, they have Reggie Jackson, Brandon Jennings at the point – really good pieces. They’re looking for a guy that can bring energy to the wing spot and I can be that guy.”
In 11 days, just maybe he will be that guy.
- The three others at Monday’s workout are second-round candidates, one of them – Nebraska’s Terran Petteway – in for a second Pistons visit. And he didn’t try hiding his excitement.
“I didn’t ask no questions,” he said. “I was on the next flight here, no questions asked. I don’t believe they would bring a guy back if they weren’t interested, waste their time, so I was definitely honored and blessed to be back here for a second workout.”
Petteway, like Florida’s Michael Frazier and Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear, projects as a shooting guard.
“I definitely think I’d be a good fit here,” he said. “I like the coaching staff. When I met with those guys last time, I definitely got a good vibe from them. It was just nice being around them. Hopefully, they see something in me that I can help this team out in the year coming up.”
- Florida’s Frazier’s calling card is his 3-point shot. He hit better than 40 percent in all three of his college seasons, taking well more than half of his attempts from the arc. He says he can be more than just a spot-up shooter, but he understands that’s what has NBA teams interested.
“I don’t think a lot of people know that I can put the ball on the floor and create my own shot, get to the basket, play in pick and roll,” said Frazier, who called himself “the best shooter in this draft.” “I just wasn’t able to show that at Florida. In these workouts, I’ve been trying to show I can do a little bit more than stand in the corner and shoot and I’ve been able to accomplish that.”