Stanley Johnson

Pelicans Have Trade Targets In Mind

As we relayed just last week, the Pelicans are among a handful of teams who have been active prospective buyers on the trade market so far this season. Additional details have emerged from Jordan Brenner of the Athletic, who notes that the Pels are primarily interested in obtaining a long, defensive-oriented swingman/small forward before the trade deadline.

Some of the names that Brenner hears as potential targets in New Orleans from conversations with team executives, scouts and an assistant coach are the Pistons’ Stanley Johnson, Bulls’ swingman Justin Holiday, Hawks’ swingman Kent Bazemore, Nets’ veteran DeMarre Carroll, and even J.R. Smith – players who can knock down open threes and use their length on defense. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders also adds Lakers’ trade candidate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to that list.

And while none of these players may push the Pelicans to the next echelon of NBA teams, a trade for one of them would at least represent progress as the front office stares into the possibility of losing Anthony Davis to free agency or a trade demand if they do nothing.

Right now, the Pelicans have E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill playing the 3, but while Moore is vastly undervalued and on a team-friendly contract, he’s only 6’4” and not a viable small forward defensively. As Brenner notes, New Orleans has acknowledged as much by moving Moore to the bench and giving Hill another run in the starting lineup. But Hill has not shown he’s a capable piece moving forward either.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, they have few assets to offer in any trade. Hill’s contract runs through 2020, Wesley Johnson and Darius Miller are on expiring deals but are only making $6.1MM and $2.2MM, respectively, and young assets like Cheick Diallo and Frank Jackson haven’t shown enough promise to net a real return.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if those players’ stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Central Division:

Justin Holiday, Bulls 29, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017
Holiday is playing heavy minutes for the injury-riddled Bulls. His scoring average (12.0 PPG) is modest, given the amount of playing time he’s receiving, but he’s been solid from long range (38.9%) and rarely turns the ball over. His OBPM (Offensive Box Plus/Minus) is a career-best 1.7, according to Basketball Reference. Defensively, he leads the club in steals (1.6). Holiday probably won’t find a starting gig on the open market, but he’d be a solid second unit option on a playoff contender.

Rodney Hood, Cavaliers, 26, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3.47MM deal in 2018
Hood accepted the Cavaliers’ qualifying offer as a restricted free agent over the summer with the aim of landing a lucrative mult-year pact as an unrestricted FA next summer. Thus far, Hood hasn’t really stood out from the pack on a struggling team. With Kevin Love sidelined by a foot injury, Hood had an opportunity to be a bigger offensive force. Instead, his numbers have declined. He averaged 14.0 PPG in 27.7 MPG last month but has posted a 9.3 PPG average in 26.0 MPG through four November outings.

Stanley Johnson, Pistons, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.85MM deal in 2015
Johnson didn’t receive a rookie scale extension and he’ll be a restricted free agent if the Pistons extend a $5.3MM qualifying offer after the season. Right now, that’s a big if. Johnson lost his starting job to Glenn Robinson III after shooting 35.2% overall and 25.0% from deep while committing 16 turnovers in seven starts. The Pistons are currently looking at Johnson as a small ball power forward off the bench. He’s looked comfortable in that role, posting back-to-back double-digit games while shooting with more confidence.

Tyreke Evans, Pacers, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal in 2018
Coming off a career year with the Grizzlies in which he averaged 19.3 PPG, Evans was expected to be one of the league’s premier sixth men. He’s still finding his way with a much more talented team, averaging 10.9 PPG, though he’s been fine beyond the arc (41.7%). In his last six games, Evans is averaging 10.0 PPG while shooting 38.2% from the field. Evans’ numbers should spike up but for now, he hasn’t done anything to make him more attractive on the open market than he was this summer.

Khris Middleton, Bucks, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $70MM deal in 2015
Middleton has a $13MM option on his contract for next season and it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll test the open market. His value continues to rise with his early-season performances. He’s the second-best player on a very good team, averaging 19.3 PPG and shooting a whopping 45.5% from long range. Throw in career bests in rebounding (5.2 per game) and assists (4.3) along with his solid defense and Middleton will be highly coveted in July.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Griffin, Jackson, Johnson

Pistons center Andre Drummond doesn’t plan to shoot a lot of threes but he’s thrilled that new coach Dwane Casey has given him the green light, as he told the Detroit Free Press. Casey believes if Drummond hits a couple of long range shots every game, it will create more space for everyone offensively. “The 3-point shot is something I’ve added six years ago,” he said. “I just never had a coach that allowed to me to shoot it. It’s something I’ve worked on consistently for a long time, so I guess now is my time to really showcase it.” Frontcourt partner Blake Griffin doesn’t want Drummond to stray from the basket too often.  “We still want to use Dre to his strengths because he’s one of the most dominant centers, one of the best finishers, one of the best rebounders,” Griffin said. “So it would be doing him a disservice to keep him away from the rim and doing the things he does best.”

We have more from the Pistons:

  • Both of Detroit’s top big men believe the team should set lofty goals. Griffin said homecourt advantage in the playoffs, at least for the opening round, should be the team’s regular-season aim. Drummond expects the Pistons to be serious contenders in the East. “The time is now,” he said. “We have everything we need to be great. There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in the East or a top team in the NBA.”
  • Point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle), power forward Jon Leuer (knee) and shooting guard Luke Kennard (ankle) will be limited for the start of camp but all should be ready to play by opening night, according to senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “Those three are not in basketball shape,” Stefanski said.
  • Stefanski wouldn’t specifically address a question whether the team was interested in trading for Jimmy Butler but he noted the team has payroll limitations. However, he’s not averse to dealing for star players with expiring contracts. “That wouldn’t bother me,” he said. “It depends on what you have to give up.”
  • Small forward Stanley Johnson is eligible for an extension but the franchise is more focused on whether he’ll develop into a consistent performer. Johnson admits he still has a lot to prove. “(Owner) Tom (Gores) said, ‘I’m tired of hearing the word potential,'” Johnson said.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Rookies, Johnson, Bullock

There’s a good chance that Blake Griffin can return to elite status after a healthy summer and a few months of working to develop chemistry with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin played 25 games for the Pistons after being acquired in a trade with the Clippers, and although his scoring and rebounding numbers declined from where they were in L.A., Griffin averaged a career-best 6.2 assists per game after coming to Detroit.

Beard also states that he doesn’t expect Griffin to be among the first players moved if owner Tom Gores decides to break up the team. Griffin signed a max extension with the Clippers last summer and is owed $141.6MM over the next four years, although the final season is a player option. That type of contract would be difficult to trade, Beard notes, and tough to get anything of value for.

There’s more today out of Detroit:

  • Dwane Casey’s history of giving minutes to young players in Toronto could be good news for Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown, but they’ll still face a challenge in cracking a talented rotation, Beard states in the same piece. The Pistons sent two second-round picks to the Sixers for the 38th pick in this year’s draft, which they used to grab Thomas, a shooting guard who specializes in defense. They took Brown, a wing who can also play the point, four picks later. Both were adequate but not overly impressive during Summer League, and Beard believes there will have to be injuries for either to get regular playing time as rookies.
  • The Pistons brought in Glenn Robinson III as insurance in case Stanley Johnson receives a huge offer sheet as a restricted free agent next summer, Beard adds. Detroit is already near the projected cap for 2019/20 and may not be willing to go into the luxury tax to keep Johnson.
  • Reggie Bullock‘s 3-point shooting prowess should keep him in the starting lineup, even though the Pistons’ coaches are strong believers in Luke Kennard, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Bullock, who shot a sizzling 44.5% from 3-point range last year, will be a free agent next summer.

Extension Candidate: Stanley Johnson

Twenty-three players became eligible for rookie scale extensions when the 2018/19 NBA league year began in July. One of those 23, Devin Booker, quickly finalized a new deal with the Suns, leaving 22 other players who could sign rookie scale extensions before the October 15 deadline.

In the weeks leading up to that deadline, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the strongest candidates for new contracts.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Extension Candidate Series]

Our examination of this year’s candidates for rookie scale extensions continues today with Pistons swingman Stanley Johnson. Let’s dive in…

Why the Pistons should give him an extension:

The ability to guard multiple positions has become an increasingly valuable skill in the current NBA. With so many teams going with smaller lineups, defenders must be able to switch onto smaller, quicker players and bigger, stronger opponents alike and still hold their own. Therein lies Johnson’s calling card.

The No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft, the 6’7” Johnson has proven he can defend four positions. He’s got the strength to mix up with a LeBron James and the athleticism and quickness to match up with a Kyrie Irving.

For the most part, Johnson is assigned to the other team’s top wing player. Given the composition of the Pistons’ roster, Johnson serves as a complimentary piece to the team’s other top wings, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard. Bullock and Kennard are known for their perimeter shooting but aren’t considered noteworthy defenders.

New coach Dwane Casey has indicated he’d like to play Johnson at power forward at certain times, which would allow him to attack taller, slower defenders off the dribble.

Why the Pistons should avoid an extension:

If Johnson has shown any growth offensively, it’s been a very gradual process. In his rookie season, he averaged 8.1 PPG while making 37.5% of his shots and 30.7% from long range in 23.1 MPG.

He experimented with a new release in his second year and regressed even from those subpar figures. Johnson’s offensive woes and questions about his work ethic led to a dip in playing time, as he averaged 4.4 PPG while shooting 35.3% from the field and 29.2% on 3-point tries in 17.8 MPG.

He got back in former coach Stan Van Gundy’s good graces last season but remained a work in progress offensively. Johnson averaged 8.7 PPG on 37.5% shooting whiile making just 28.6% of his threes in 27.4 MPG.

Points of comparison:

Among  recent recipients of rookie scale extensions, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may be the best point of comparison for Johnson. In 2015, the Hornets gave Kidd-Gilchrist a four-year, $52MM deal, mainly due to his reputation as a lockdown defender.

Kidd-Gilchrist has been a fixture in the team’s starting lineup during the first two years of the extension but his offensive numbers have actually gone down compared to his first three seasons in the league. He doesn’t even attempt 3-point baskets, which makes it easier for defenders to load up on Charlotte’s shooters.

Johnson at least provides some hope of developing into a perimeter threat. In six April games last season, he averaged 12.0 PPG and made 36% of his long-distance tries.

Cap outlook:

Due to the acquisition of Blake Griffin and some poor decisions by the previous regime, the Pistons won’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of their payroll next summer.

The trio of Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson alone will eat up $79.6MM of their cap space. The Pistons will still be on the hook for the final years of Jon Leuer‘s and Langston Galloway‘s deals, chewing up another $16.8MM in cap room. And the stretch provision used on Josh Smith will wipe out an additional $5.33MM.

Handing Johnson a deal comparable to Kidd-Gilchrist, i.e. in the $13MM annual range, would leave the Pistons with very little wiggle room to upgrade the roster. They’d have to be convinced that Johnson could expand his game offensively while remaining a bulldog on the defensive end.

It’s not far-fetched, considering Johnson exited college after his freshman season at Arizona. He’s still only 22 and could thrive under the guidance of Casey.

Conclusion:

Under a different set of circumstances, the Pistons might consider locking up Johnson at the right price. He can contribute without being a major offensive factor and the Pistons probably don’t need him to become a 15- or 20-point scorer.

They’ve got two All-Star level frontcourt talents in Griffin and Drummond, an offensively-gifted point guard (when healthy) in Jackson, and some quality 3-point shooters dotting the roster. It’s still difficult to make a long-term commitment to Johnson until he becomes at least enough of an offensive threat that defenders have to pay some attention to him.

It’s even more difficult for the Pistons to lavish Johnson with a multi-year deal given their salary constraints next summer. They can still extend a qualifying offer and see how the market plays out when Johnson becomes a restricted free agent.

It’s unlikely Johnson will develop so dramatically that other teams will be beating down his door with lucrative offer sheets. Better to see if Johnson can make the necessary upgrades in his game before giving him long-term security.

Will Johnson get extended by October 15?

Our prediction: No.

Our estimate: RFA in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Eastern Notes: Leonard, Galloway, Johnson, Ntilikina

Hiring Kawhi Leonard‘s close friend Jeremy Castleberry away from the Spurs as a player development coach was a wise move by the Raptors, in the view of Danny Green, as Steven Loung of SportsNet Canada details.

Green was traded along with Leonard to Toronto and the Raptors are hoping to convince Leonard to re-sign with them next summer. The addition of Castleberry should help the cause, according to Green

“It’s good to have (Castleberry) on board. Hopefully, it helps Kawhi feel more comfortable at home and keeps him in the city that they want to keep him here,” Green said. “Obviously (the Raptors) traded for him for a reason. They think they can sell him. … It’s an amazing city in Toronto. So the city sells itself. … And now you have your best friend with you. What else could you ask for?”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Langston Galloway was a major disappointment in his first season with the Pistons and he’ll have a tough time making the rotation, Ansar Khan of MLive writes. Galloway didn’t fare well when he played the point on occasion and posted career lows in several categories while mostly seeing action at shooting guard, Khan continues. Galloway, who has two years left on his $21MM contract, has plenty of competition at the guard spots in the upcoming season, Khan adds.
  • Pistons small forward Stanley Johnson could blossom in coach Dwane Casey’s first season, Khan writes in another post. Casey has praised Johnson’s work ethic and feels that Johnson has untapped scoring potential, Khan continues. Johnson became more aggressive going to the basket last season but needs to improve his outside shooting, Khan adds.
  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina (France) and Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (Finland) will not play for their national teams in FIBA World Cup qualifiers next month, according to a Sportando report. Both players will focus on preparing for their second season in the NBA, the report adds.

Pistons Notes: Leuer, Griffin, R. Jackson, S. Johnson

Jon Leuer‘s knee surgery this week gives the Pistons a reason to worry about their frontcourt depth, suggests Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Leuer had a procedure done on his right knee Wednesday after suffering a medial meniscus injury. Although it’s considered minor, the team isn’t sure that he’ll be ready for camp, saying his condition will be re-evaluated in late September.

New coach Dwane Casey was counting on Leuer to be his primary reserve big man, backing up Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. But if Leuer’s recovery takes longer than expected, that gives greater responsibility to Henry Ellenson and free agent addition Zaza Pachulia. Ellis notes that Johnny Hamilton, a rookie from Texas-Arlington who was with the Pistons for Summer League, could also be in the mix if he performs well in training camp.

Injury misfortune continues for Leuer, who missed 74 games last season with a left ankle issue that also required surgery. The 29-year-old will make slightly more than $10MM this season and $9.5MM in 2019/20.

There’s more today out of Detroit:

  • There’s reason for optimism about the health of Griffin and Reggie Jackson heading into the new season, Ellis writes in a mailbag column. Neither player had injury issues this summer and they were able to keep up a full workout schedule. The switch to Casey may also help as former coach Stan Van Gundy was known for long, often draining practices. Griffin appeared in 58 games last year between the Clippers and Pistons, missing time with knee and ankle injuries, and hasn’t played more than 67 in the past four seasons. Jackson had a platelet-rich plasma treatment before the start of last season and managed just 45 games.
  • The Pistons may have plans to use free agent addition Glenn Robinson III and Stanley Johnson in the lineup together, Ellis adds in the same piece. Power forward could turn out to be Johnson’s best position, and there will be an opening if Leuer’s injury is worse than expected.
  • Former New Mexico State guard Zach Lofton is excited about the opportunity to join the Pistons for training camp, relays Mark Rudi of The Las Cruces Sun-News. Lofton confirmed the agreement today on Instagram. “I want to thank the Detroit Pistons for the amazing opportunity to be a part of the organization,” he said in a news release. “I also want to thank the amazing support system I’ve had through the years. I’m excited to start this new chapter.”

Central Notes: Wade, Bucks, Casey, Lowe

The signing of Dwyane Wade just before the start of the season led to jealousy in the Cavaliers‘ locker room, according to Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were most affected, with Smith fearing Wade would take his starting spot and Shumpert believing Wade would cut into his playing time. Wade did start briefly, before asking to be moved to a bench role. Injuries limited Shumpert to just 14 games before he was traded to the Kings in February.

Pluto outlines other problems with the Cavs’ roster, including Tristan Thompson‘s distractions with the Kardashian family and his notoriety on gossip websites, Kevin Love‘s panic attacks and a team meeting where he felt he was being attacked by Wade and Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder‘s ineffectiveness without the structured offense he had under Brad Stevens in Boston.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks contemplated a pair of draft night trades before selecting Donte DiVincenzo at No. 17, reports Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated. They talked about swapping picks with the Pacers and moving down to No. 23, and discussed a deal with the Hawks involving the 19th and 30th selections. Atlanta, which planned to take Kevin Huerter with the 17th pick, ended negotiations when word that the Bucks were drafting DiVincenzo leaked on Twitter. The Hawks expected the Spurs to grab Lonnie Walker at No. 18 and were confident that Huerter would fall to them at No. 19. DiVincenzo was happy to wind up in Milwaukee, which he and his representatives had singled out as a preferred destination.
  • Developing young players will be a priority for new coach Dwane Casey in his first season with the Pistons, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. The front office believes improvement from Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson is necessary for the team to return to the playoffs. “Three very talented young players,” Casey said at his introductory press conference this week. “That’s going to be on us, the coaching staff, to really draw as much of that as we can. The talent level on the roster is there. Getting it together and identifying how we’re going to play is very, very important. That’s the fun part of it because the talent base is there.”  The Pistons plan to experiment with Kennard as a point guard in summer league play, Ellis tweets.
  • After adding Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney to their coaching staff this week, the Pistons are now targeting Wizards assistant Sidney Lowe, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Pistons Notes: Thomas, Scouting, Gores, Brown

The Pistons were looking to add depth at the wing spots and got two players who will compete for minutes next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Detroit didn’t have a first-round pick but traded away two future second-rounders to the Sixers to nab Creighton’s Khyri Thomas at No. 38, then chose Bruce Brown of Miami (Fla.) four picks later with their own selection.

“You never know how the draft’s going to go,” senior advisor Ed Stefanski said. “It didn’t look like we were going to be able to move like we did. People were asking for some big asks, but as the night went on it got much better and we were able to make the move. … We need some young guys, especially, to play that position.”

Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are projected to eat up most of the minutes at those spots but Thomas and Brown could get into the mix if an injury strikes.

In other news regarding the Pistons:

  • Stefanski notified the team’s scouting department that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of the month, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets. The team’s front office is undergoing a complete makeover after head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower were dismissed. The team is still seeking one or more young executives to take front office roles. Spurs executive Malik Rose has been offered a front office job. New head coach Dwane Casey is in the process of building his staff. The team reached an agreement with Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney to join its staff.
  • Top players Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were asked for their input when owner Tom Gores was conducting the coaching search, Langlois writes in a separate piece“I did consult with them, (though) they weren’t making the decision,” Gores said. “I texted Reggie, Andre, Blake. ‘What kind of coach do you want? Let’s check the boxes.’ I did engage with them. I know them pretty well. Meeting Dwane, he really did check all those boxes.”
  • Bruce Brown underwent season-ending foot surgery in his final season with the Hurricanes but he has no restrictions this offseason, as he told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and other media members. “I’m good to go,” Brown said. “I’m fully cleared. All my medicals look fine at the combine so I’m ready to go 100 percent.”