Stanley Johnson out of Arizona, a player on the Pacers radar for the draft with some strengths and weaknesses:
- Size- There is no doubt that Stanley Johnson possesses an NBA ready body. Johnson weighs in at an incredible 242 pounds, at a height of 6'5 without shoes. To put this in perspective, Bobby Portis (really the only other player with an NBA body that we have covered so far) weighs in at 242 pounds. Johnson out weighs most of the big men that the Pacers are after in the draft. Kaminsky comes in at 231 and Turner 239. This huge size really shows through on the court as Johnson often looks massive compared to players around him. The rumor goes he never touched a weight until he came to Arizona. Is he the hulk? At times, yes. He uses his size to bully people on offense and defense. When he gets a head of steam toward the rim he is a freight train at full speed, and nothing is going to stop him (more later). On defense it provides him the versatility to guard four positions (1-4). Anytime a guy can guard four different positions, especially for a defensive minded team, he can be a big asset.
- Scoring Ability- Johnson can score. As a freshman who played a key role for the Wildcats, he averaged 13.8 points per game and 19.4 points per 40 adjusted. He also had a solid 56% true shooting percentage. These stats may seem low, but they are pretty solid overall, but not stellar. Johnson was most effective in the open court where he could use his big size to bully smaller defenders by running them over and scoring easy buckets. Johnson's true shooting percentage shows that he is a solid jump shooter that needs some work. Heading into his freshman year at Arizona, he was a horrific jump shooter, but improved tremendously throughout the season. His jumper is not quite at a high level with a lower release that leaves a risk of being blocked and contested easily. His improved release is quick and compact which are signs of continued improvement, but he just struggles to knock down the three and mid-range with consistency. Johnson's jumper was good enough to make people respect him on the pick and roll, and when defenders sag off, but again, it was a mixed bag. Johnson is a good passer when he takes his time and does not try and be too fancy with the passes. An average skill, but one that he shows from time to time and adds to offensive skill set. Johnson added a floater to his game that he used quite a bit, both on the break, and the half court. His floater showed that Johnson has good touch to score and continue to improve his jumper with hard work. Johnson was effective in iso situations with a solid first step where he can bang with bigger defenders and brush off smaller ones, giving him a lot of opportunities to play above the rim and get good looks around the basket. Overall, Johnson is effective on the offensive end and his offensive skill set could provide a boost to, a at times, struggling to score Pacers squad.
- Defense- Like many of the other players that have been talked about here so far, their defense is a mixed bag. For Johnson, at times, it is probably his biggest strength. When he is locked in he can guard basically anyone on the floor. He has impressive lateral skills and foot movement that allow him to guard small quick offensive players that many at may struggle to guard. His 242-pound frame allows him to puff his chest and keep big men from getting deep post position against him. Forcing big men to make jumpers, or try and take him off of the bounce a battle he will win most of the time. Johnson has great instincts, which allow him to get in the passing lanes averaging 2.1 steals per 40. On screens Johnson continued to show his good instincts by making good reads on going over top or underneath. Johnson is a good help defender, knowing when to help and when to leave them in iso situations. Johnson also is a good rebounder averaging 6.5 total, a testament to his size and ability to box guys out and be in good position. At the same time, this is also a problem for him, as he gets lazy rather than getting in good rebounding position. At time Johnson is seen ball watching causing him to get out of position and lose his man. Johnson is seen out of the defensive stance at times allowing guys to beat him off of the bounce that should not. At times Johnson over plays and struggles to stay in plays that should be no problem for a guy with these skills. It is safe to say his defense shows serious flashes, but is not quite at the highest level. If Johnson keeps improving there is no doubt he could become an elite NBA defender.
- Finishing- Johnson was a pretty terrible finisher at the rim, which is inexcusable for a guy who is 6'5 242. He only made 40% of his attempts inside the paint, which is one of the lowest in the entire draft. For a guy who can get to the rim and has size like Johnson, he needs to be a better finisher at the rim. it is scary to think a guy of his size would not be able to finish against bigs of equal size in the NBA. Even scarier is the thought that Johnson would shy away from the paint, and contact, with his size. Relying on the floater to score around the rim, rather than going up strong, absorbing contact and finishing. For Johnson to have a lasting impact, his finishing abilities need serious improvement. This is an inexcusable part of his game and it is pretty sad that he struggles this much around the rim. he will be eaten alive by NBA defenders who will force him into jumpers that he is not consistent enough on making, making him a pretty average NBA offensive threat.
- Decision making- Johnson often made pretty poor decisions on the offensive end of the floor and this is most apparent on the break. When he gets into open space he becomes a 1v1 guy who is not interested in passing the ball, only in making himself look good. Johnson will go to the rim with reckless abandon running guys over, drawing charges, taking on two or three defenders getting a bad look, or just plain throwing the ball away. In offensive sets he sometimes did the same things, but did not happen quite as often. This should be a red flag if you have read this far, as the Pacers are trying to speed the game up a guy who poses a turn over risk on the fast break, at times, is a scary thought and does not seem like a good fit for the Pacers (more in a bit). Johnson needs to be more under control on the break and in offensive sets, allowing the game to come to him rather than trying to force his way into a 20 point a night guy.
- Consistency- Johnson's last weakness is seen in his lack of consistency. With all his issues there are times when Johnson is simply a beast on both ends of the court and is one of the best players on the court, other nights he really struggles to be the same guy. Taking a look at specifics, his jumper is the most notable as he can light it up from deep and mid-range at times, but can often struggle. His passing is pretty hit or miss too. When Johnson takes his time he makes good passes, when he rushes and tries to make something happen he turns it over. His scoring is hit or miss also and it leaves him a pretty one dimensional player. On defense, as noted, he shows flashes or greatness, but other times gets beat easily by people who should have no chance. For Johnson to be a good NBA player he needs to show more consistent skills than he did at Arizona.
If you have made it this far you are probably thinking I am going to say the Pacers should not draft him, however, I think the Pacers should really take a close look at him. His weaknesses are pretty fixable and although they seem horrific on paper, with a little work he could become a great player. Johnson is basically the hulk who plays basketball for his size, most 1-2 guards are in the 190-200 range. That size alone makes it hard to pass on him as his defensive versatility is pretty awesome and it is not like he is an average defender, rather he has shown that he can really defend four different positions. For a defensive minded Pacers squad that is hard to argue with. Johnson is not some slow guy either, he often is out on the break and is more than willing to push the ball. Adding him to the new Pacers system and working with his decision making, will make him a great option on the fast break. If his jumper continues to improve, along with his passing, then he starts to look even better as he scores and defends well. Now, I do not think he will be an amazing NBA player, but I see him with potential Tony Allen defensive skills, and more offensive abilities right away. I believe he would fit well with the Pacers, their style, and with the 11th pick is worth a hard look.