Stanley Johnson
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

With the NBA rumor mill heating up, the Detroit Pistons are reportedly shopping small forward Stanley Johnson and the New York Knicks are one of the teams they’ve likely spoken to. If the Knickerbockers are wise, they’d stay away. 

Nothing gets the fanbase of the New York Knicks—a team who has lost nine of 12 games—excited like a trade rumor involving a recent top-10 overall pick.

On Thursday night, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that the Detroit Pistons have been looking around the league for wing help and the name they’re peddling is Pistons small forward, Stanley Johnson. The former Arizona Wildcat was picked eighth overall in 2015 shortly after the Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis.

Given the source, even Inspector Clouseau could figure out that New York is one of the teams the Pistons have been speaking with regarding a deal. In all likelihood, they’re looking to acquire Knicks’ swingman Courtney Lee who started for Detroit’s head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy when he took the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals.


Lee would fit into the Notorious SVG’s spread pick and roll attack as seamlessly now as he did a decade ago. With the Knicks season slowly working its way down the tubes, they may be inclined to move Courtney for a young asset who can help them down the line. Stanley Johnson would seem to fit the bill.

Stan the Man?

Coming out of college, Johnson was looked at as the poor man’s Justise Winslow of the 2015 Draft, which made Detroit’s selection of him two spots ahead of Winslow all the more surprising. Since that night neither has done much to distinguish himself as an NBA player.

That’s not the most concerning issue with Johnson. Plenty of young players take time to develop, and the Pistons small forward is still just 21-years-old.

No, the problem with Johnson isn’t that he’s bad, it’s that he’s been getting worse.

The biggest question facing Stanley Johnson when he first came into the league was about his offense. As a rookie, he shot a not completely terrible 30 percent from deep on nearly three attempts per game. He seemed to be on the right track. Last season, however, instead of improving, Johnson’s three-point percentage went down to 29 percent, which is where it has stayed this year.

According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Johnson currently ranks in the bottom 10 percent of all NBA wings in points per shot attempt (which is analogous to true shooting percentage), effective field goal percentage, and two-point shooting percentage. He’s also not much better from close range than he is from deep, shooting a mere 58 percent on shots at the rim — well below league average.

New York Knicks

Stay Away:

Unsurprisingly, not being able to score inhibits one’s ability to be a useful basketball player. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus ranks Johnson 68th out of 87 small forwards and according to NBA.com, he has the worst on/off differential of any regular on the Pistons.

Digging into the plus-minus stats a bit, when Johnson shares the court with Detroit’s four other starters—Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley—that five-man unit is getting outscored by 7.4 points per 100 possessions. According to Cleaning the Glass, that same starting four with anyone other than Johnson is outscoring teams by 7.9 points per 100 possessions over 420 possessions.

None of these signs point to a player who is on the verge of a breakout, which Detroit seems to realize. Johnson was inactive for a recent five-game stretch before playing against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. If it was an effort to showcase the young man, hopefully, no one was watching; Johnson finished with zero points in 20 minutes.

Maybe Johnson turns it around at his next stop, but the Knicks don’t have many trade chips, and they certainly don’t want to waste their best one in Lee—a shooting, defending wing in a league desperate for them—on a player who is as likely to be out of a job in three years as he is to fulfill anywhere close the promise he held on draft night.

Let someone else take the risk.

Please SUBSCRIBE to ESNY's Daily Newsletter, ESNY City Stream. Every piece of content included yet CUSTOMIZED to your New York Sports-team allegiance:

ESNY City Stream

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU