Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a specific summer plan for Stanley Johnson’s workload for improvement after his rookie season.
The initial thought was that Johnson would stay away from competitive situations and strictly work on skill development during the summer, with a nod to Johnson’s drive to win would overtake his need to improve.
Now, Van Gundy has made an about-face.
Johnson will be on the Pistons’ roster for the summer league in Orlando next week, Van Gundy revealed Tuesday. Joining Johnson will be Darrun Hilliard, who also is entering his second season, and point guard Lorenzo Brown.
“The decision came down to it being a big summer for Stanley in terms of skill development,” Van Gundy said. “There are some things in the realm of skill development that you just can’t do in a gym by yourself. He’s putting a lot of time in on his shooting, which you can obviously do better in a gym by yourself than you can out playing.”
The Pistons can have three players on the current roster compete on the summer league team. Johnson, the No. 8 pick in last season’s draft, primarily was the Pistons’ sixth man last season and averaged 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds but struggled after a shoulder injury in late February.
Hilliard played sparingly as a rookie but summer league also could provide an opportunity for more playing time to help him adjust to playing and working on his improvement plan.
But for Johnson, the goals are specific: work more on driving to the left, make plays in the pick-and-roll and improve his outside shooting.
“Those are things we can’t really work on in a gym, so we thought it would be valuable to have him have seven or eight practices down there total and five games where we could put him in the situations we wanted him to work on,” Van Gundy said. “It will be a little different summer league experience for him this year because last year we just put in our system and let him play — and he played extremely well.
“This year, we’ll specifically be trying to put him in situations where he’s working on things he needs to work on.”
That means Johnson’s results could be a bit deceptive, in that he won’t be working to his strengths as much, but will be trying to improve on his specific weaknesses. That could include a pull-up jumper, as Johnson was called for numerous offensive fouls in trying to drive to the basket predominantly.
In this case, though, it might be a mental adjustment as well as a physical adjustment in getting Johnson to focus not just on the wins and losses, but also on the qualitative improvements.
“We’re going to use the summer league, in his case at least, as a developmental tool for him, not just let’s go out and learn to play the NBA game,” Van Gundy said. “He’s played enough minutes — he understands what that’s about — now it’s just time to work on specific things.”