Beard: Jury still out on Pistons’ Stanley Johnson pick
New York — The road trips in the NBA provide time for introspection and to deal with NBA fans on myriad topics. Some are wild and outlandish conversations via Twitter; others are spirited exchanges about things such as lineups and trade possibilities.
Sometimes, it’s just a rabbit hole to go down and get the fans’ pulse and let them vent. Often, it’s frustrating but it’s also a good gauge of where Pistons Twitter is centered.
News & Views looks at a few topics from the past few days:
News: Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell is averaging 18.5 points, spotlighting the Pistons’ inability to draft properly (well, maybe that’s just a hot take).
Views: Stan Van Gundy’s draft record and his perceived affinity for not playing his young draftees has been a hot topic for a while.
The conversation inevitably goes to the last three draft picks: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard, and their inability to get starters’ minutes or the time they need to develop into quality contributors.
It’s a chicken-vs.-egg quandary: Do players have to earn playing time with their skills or do they have to play well enough to justify the playing time they get?
Seemingly, it’s the latter, especially for rookies. The three are not can’t-miss prospects like the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum or the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball. They have their own foibles and have to grow into their NBA games.
But they can’t do that without playing time.
In most cases, the young guys getting major minutes are on bad teams that have plenty of playing time available to grow and develop. Such is the case with the Suns’ Devin Booker, who went five picks after the Pistons took Johnson with the eighth pick in the 2015 draft.
Booker has shined in Phoenix, posting 19.2 points — and more importantly, playing 32 minutes per game. The Suns aren’t anywhere close to winning, so they have time and opportunity for Booker.
What would Booker look like in a Pistons uniform? It’s pointless to ponder, because it’s all in hindsight. An equally-intriguing question is what Johnson would look like in a Suns uniform — with that same playing time and opportunity.
The same logic is flowing with Mitchell, whom the Pistons coveted, but ultimately chose Kennard before Utah got Mitchell with the next pick. Mitchell is budding in Salt Lake City, while Kennard is looking to carve a niche, sparking the ire of some Pistons fans.
Drafting is an inexact science at best. Some picks are going to be right and others aren’t going to pan out — especially in a three-year span.
We can all make the right picks in hindsight. But we don’t live in hindsight. Give it time before making sweeping proclamations about whether a prospect is a bust.
News: The Pistons are shopping in the trade market, looking to upgrade the roster.
Views: No surprise here, but the names they’re reportedly considering — the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic and the Magic’s Evan Fournier — might be accurate. Van Gundy said Tuesday they are pursuing all their options, including players in the upcoming development league showcase.
The trade market doesn’t look to be stocked with outlook-altering talent and they likely would have to gut the roster to get a big-name talent that could change their fortunes, with Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer out for the next few weeks.
Keep in mind that the big Van Gundy trades, such as those that brought Avery Bradley this summer, Tobias Harris two years ago and Reggie Jackson the previous year — all went under the radar before they were announced. There’s a big Twitter push for the Pistons to go after the Hornets’ Kemba Walker. That would get more complicated — presuming the Hornets even want to part with the face of their franchise — but it’s the magnitude of deal they’d need to do to be truly impactful.
News: Stanley Johnson is working his way back from a hip flexor injury and returned Wednesday after missing five games.
Views: Johnson hasn’t had a big season, but a lot of the Pistons’ defensive woes have occured since Johnson’s injury. His offensive struggles aside, Johnson is a steady defender who’s needed in the lineup.
Reggie Bullock has given them good offensive production and good defensive contributions, but Johnson is the better overall defender. If Johnson is going to turn things around, he needs to play and get a chance to improve on the offensive issues.