Can Detroit Pistons be successful with Stanley Johnson in starting lineup?


DETROIT – The Detroit Pistons are surging after some big road wins, including wins against the Warriors, Celtics, Thunder, Timberwolves and Clippers.

The Pistons are 13-6, sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, it's only November, but the Pistons look like a top-five Eastern Conference team.

While Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley are leading the team in most categories and the Pistons bench has been strong, starting small forward and former first-round pick Stanley Johnson is a big question mark.

Johnson has struggled with consistency this year, showing strong moments on offense and defense. Those moments, however, have been overshadowed by turnovers and bad shooting nights.

Through 19 games this season, Johnson is averaging eight points and three rebounds in about 30 minutes per game.

Johnson plays the fourth-most minutes per game for the Pistons, but is near the bottom of the team in several major stat categories.

  • 13th in player efficiency rating (7.7)
  • 13th in field goal percentage (38 percent), 12th in adjusted FG (46 percent)
  • 13th in average plus-minus (-3.3), 14th in total plus-minus (-51)
  • 3rd in three-point attempts, but 8th in field goal percentage
  • 4th in defensive rating (107.2)

It would be hard to argue that Johnson, in his third year, is a real NBA starter. You'd be hard-pressed to find a starting small forward with worse numbers.

In fact, Johnson ranks 107th in active starting NBA forwards in field goal percentage, out of 127. He also ranks 95th in average plus-minus per game.

Johnson ranks 76th in three-point percentage, and 39th in three-point attempts. 

Johnson was drafted by Stan Van Gundy in 2015, but after showing some growth at the end of his rookie season, he has struggled to show improvement -- or at least enough to be a starter.

The problem for the Pistons is depth. Even if they wanted to move Johnson to the bench, their isn't a sure-fire replacement in the lineup.

Reggie Bullock is the only other three-guard and it doesn't look like Van Gundy is comfortable giving him heavy minutes.

The Pistons are going to have to face this issue if they want to be a true contender in the East.

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