The tenth player in Denver Stiffs draft coverage, was one of the best freshman in college basketball last season. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Arizona's Stanley Johnson.
Who is Stanley Johnson?
Johnson is 19 years old, born on May 29th in Anaheim, California. Johnson's mother, Karen Taylor played college basketball at Jackson State and overseas in Europe professionally. While attending Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, Johnson won four straight state titles and was named the High School National Player of the Year by MaxPreps.
One of the most highly recruited players in the 2014 class, Johnson was ranked seventh by ESPN and third by Rivals. Ultimately, Johnson chose to join coach Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats over Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, UCLA and Oregon.
During his lone season in Tucson, Johnson shined becoming the team's leading scorer, while helping the team to a Elite 8 birth and Pac-12 championship. Johnson won the Julius Erving Award (best small forward in college basketball), while also being named a member of the All-Pac-12 first team and NABC All-American third team this season.
In the following interview at the 2015 NBA Draft Combine, Johnson talks about his competitiveness and relationship with Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Take a look at Johnson's stats from Arizona:
1.) Size and Strength: Probably Johnson's biggest asset is his body, he has tremendous size and strength for a two guard. At 6'6.5", 242 lbs with only 7.5% body fat, Johnson is a hulk of a wing player and also has great length, possessing a 6'11.5" wingspan. His size allows him to overpower opposing guards and finish through contact, even though he struggles to finish at the rim. Johnson also does a good job of using his frame to rebound, he's a phenomenal rebounder for a two guard. He has a nose for the ball, is active on both the defensive and offensive glass and shows strong hands when fighting for boards. Johnson's size also adds to his value on the defensive end, as he has the strength to defend forwards on the low block.
2.) Slashing Ability: A lot is made about Johnson's scoring ability, but I don't think he's as polished of a scorer as most people make him out to be. However, Johnson's biggest strength on the offensive end is his ability to attack off the dribble and slash into the lane. He has underrated ball handling skills, keeps a low dribble and is very capable of splitting defenders on a frequent basis. I believe Johnson is most effective when he's creating his own shot off the dribble, being aggressive attacking the rim. Again his strength allows him to finish through contact as well at the rim, as he is a load for most guards to handle once he gains momentum and slashes to the rim. Johnson is like a pissed off bull when he gets some speed behind him attacking the lane, his athleticism also allows him to be effective scorer in transition.
3.) Defensive Potential: There was times this season while watching Arizona, where Stanley Johnson made me want to pull my hair out with his play on the defensive end. As the season progressed though, Johnson made a ton of strides on that end of floor and flashed the potential to be a elite perimeter defender at the next level. He moves very well for his size and at 242 pounds, has very good lateral quickness. Johnson does a good job of keeping a low stance and pressuring his man, when he's defending on the ball. He really excels off the ball as a defender as well, having the strength to fight through screens and staying glued to his man. Johnson has a lot of work left to do to become a elite defender, but his improvement defensively later in the season should give NBA executives some confidence in his potential there.
1.) Shooting Mechanics: Now People need to realize Johnson isn't a bad shooter, as his numbers show he shot a respectable 37% from three last season, but his mechanics are what really worry me. Johnson has a hitch in his shot, shooting the ball with a very low release and directly in front of his face. In doing this, Johnson has no vision of the rim and is shooting blindly essentially. His release is fairly quick, but inconsistent at times and he is very streaky. He is also not very consistent shooting off the dribble, something he must improve at the next level. No question Johnson can improve his shooting mechanics with time and eliminate the hitch that exists in his shot.
2.) Defensive Awareness: While Johnson improved vastly as a defender this season, his awareness and discipline are two things that need to improve. I'm not sure there was two other players, I watched get caught watching the ball on defense more this season than Mario Hezonja and Stanley Johnson. Johnson will give up multiple dunks on back cuts or open threes, because he gets stuck watching the ball on defense. He also gets caught going for shot fakes too often and needs to stay down more or he will get chewed up by good NBA shooters. These two things are what cause me concern with believing Johnson will become a elite defender, but I believe they're bad habits that can be broken.
3). Forcing Offense/Finishing at Rim: Johnson tends to force his offense at times, with questionable shot selection. He can be a predictable dribbler and just pick his dribble up too soon, as well. Johnson really likes to go right and when redirected left, seems to shut down and scramble a bit, even though he has no problem finishing with his left hand. Johnson should be able to develop his arsenal and elusiveness as scorer, given the appropriate time to do so, but it might limit him offensively right away for whatever team takes him. Another frustrating thing about Johnson offensively is his inability to finish at or above the rim. While he is a good athlete, Johnson isn't the best leaper and it limits his finishing ability. He will need to become more crafty as a finisher or simply just make more point blank shots to become a more efficient scorer.
Stanley Johnson is a very tricky player to find a comparison for, as I think he really is a 50/50 player. I'm not sure Johnson will ever be a "franchise player" or a number one option in the league, but he could develop into a very solid second or third option for a team. I see Johnson as a cross between Warriors forward Harrison Barnes and Bulls forward Jimmy Butler as his best case scenario, so to speak. Johnson is actually a good 20 pounds heavier than Barnes and Butler, but like both players has a prototypical NBA body. I don't believe Johnson is quite the shooter either player is, but does use his combo of strength and size to score primarily like both Butler and Barnes.
I think a big part of Johnson's success as pro, will be going to a team that gives him the time to develop as a player. Jimmy Butler has progressed every year in Chicago over the course of four years, because they allowed him to grow as a player and upped his role every year. As long as whatever franchise Johnson goes to is patient over the next three years or so, he should improve over time and eventually become a very solid two way player in the NBA.
How can the Nuggets get Johnson?
If Denver really wants Johnson, they should be able to get him with their seventh selection in June 25th's draft. Most mock draft's have Johnson going anywhere from 8-10, so the Nuggets might want to even consider trading back if Johnson is their target. I personally think Johnson is probably the ninth or tenth best player in this class and there should be players available at seven, who are better players and fits than Johnson for Denver.
I think Johnson could immediately bring some perimeter defense and rebounding to Denver, but I'm not sure he really does much more for the Nuggets at least right away. I feel Nuggets GM Tim Connelly and Nuggets President Josh Kroenke want more of a player, who can make a initial impact at seven. I'm not quite sure Johnson fits that bill for this current roster or Denver going forward. Ultimately I expect Stanley Johnson to become a good, two-way player at the next level, just not with the Nuggets.
Johnson just worked out for the Nuggets on June 5th, Nuggets writer for BSNDenver Harrison Wind and Denver Stiffs own Nate Timmons got some very good videos from the workout. The following show Johnson shooting some threes and converting a dunk off the backboard, which was off a pass from Nuggets scout Jared Jeffries.
Stanley Johnson getting up shots, struggled early but just hit 5 in a row pic.twitter.com/y0wcN072Gp— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) June 5, 2015