Stanley Johnson

Pelicans Trade Nikola Mirotic To Bucks In Three-Team Deal

7:36pm: The three-team trade involving the Pelicans, Bucks, and Pistons is now official, according to press releases issued by New Orleans and Milwaukee. Milwaukee gets Mirotic, Detroit gets Maker, and New Orleans acquires two players and four draft picks, as detailed below.

11:57am: The Bucks are adding another shooter to their frontcourt, having reached an agreement to acquire Nikola Mirotic from the Pelicans, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

New Orleans will receive Jason Smith‘s expiring contract along with Stanley Johnson in exchange for Mirotic, Woj reports (via Twitter). According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), the Pelicans will also receive four second-round picks as part of the deal.

A source tells Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link) that two of those selections will be the Wizards’ 2020 and 2021 second-rounders, while Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports (via Twitter) that Denver’s 2019 second-rounder and the Bucks’ 2020 second-rounder are also in the package.

Milwaukee just reached an agreement on Wednesday to acquire Johnson from the Pistons in exchange for Thon Maker, but that deal has yet to be completed. the Bucks wouldn’t be permitted to aggregate Johnson’s salary with another player’s contract for two months after acquiring him, so it looks the two deals will be turned into one three-team trade, which helps explain why Detroit and Milwaukee haven’t finalized their agreement yet.

For the Bucks, this deal represents an impressive response to the Sixers’ acquisition of Tobias Harris on Wednesday. While Mirotic isn’t as dynamic a player as Harris, he should fit in very nicely in Mike Budenholzer‘s system, which already features a pair of sharpshooting big men in Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova.

Mirotic, who will turn 28 next Monday, has been limited by injuries so far this season, but has been his usual productive self when he’s on the court, averaging 16.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG with a .447/.368/.842 shooting line in 28.9 MPG.

Mirotic is on an expiring contract, so the Bucks can add him to a list of free-agents-to-be that also includes Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Malcolm Brogdon (restricted). Milwaukee will presumably attempt to retain as many of those players as possible in the offseason.

As for the Pelicans, their return for Mirotic won’t match the first-round pick they gave up for him a year ago, but they won’t take on any future salary, and one or two of those second-round picks could fall in the 30s.

They’ll also get a chance to take a look at Johnson, a former lottery pick who will be up for restricted free agency this summer. While the young wing never really blossomed into a reliable rotation player in Detroit, he still has some upside as a versatile defender, though he’d have to improve his shooting numbers to improve his value.

The Pelicans will have to open up a roster spot with another trade or cut in order to finalize the deal. The Bucks, on the other hand, will create an opening on their roster, though they’re now less than $1MM away from the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks, Pistons Agree To Stanley Johnson, Thon Maker Trade

Update: This trade agreement has been rolled into a second deal between the Bucks and Pelicans to make it a three-team trade. You can read the full story here.

The Bucks and Pistons are in the process of finalizing a trade that will send forward Stanley Johnson to Milwaukee and big man Thon Maker to Detroit, a league source tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the deal has been agreed to in principle.

The move will see two Central Division teams swap a pair of former lottery picks that had fallen out of their clubs’ long-term plans. It’s a straight-up, one-for-one trade with no additional players or draft assets, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic.

Johnson, the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, seemed set to assume a larger role for the Pistons in 2018/19 after starting 50 games last season. However, the 22-year-old has taken a step back, averaging 20.0 minutes per game after playing 27.4 MPG in 2017/18. His shooting numbers have also failed to improve over the course of his career. His .381 FG% and .282 3PT% this season are about in line with his career rates.

Because he’s in his fourth NBA season, Johnson will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but he was unlikely to receive a qualifying offer from the Pistons, as Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter). The Bucks will get the opportunity to audition him as a three-and-D wing down the stretch in 2018/19 before deciding this summer whether they want to try to keep him around for a little longer.

As for Maker, the 10th overall pick from 2016’s draft has also seen his role reduced this season. The 7’1″ center, who will turn 22 later this month, appeared in 35 games for Milwaukee, averaging 4.7 PPG and 2.7 RPG in just 11.7 minutes per game. Given Maker’s limited playing time, his agent asked the Bucks to trade him to a team that would give him a greater opportunity.

Maker will get that opportunity in Detroit, where he’ll reunite with former Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps observes (via Twitter). The Pistons aren’t exactly stacked with a deep and talented frontcourt behind Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, so Maker should get the chance to battle the likes of Zaza Pachulia and Jon Leuer for minutes in Dwane Casey‘s rotation. He also remains under contract for one more year before reaching restricted free agency in 2020.

Maker is earning a salary of about $2.8MM in 2018/19, while Johnson’s cap hit is $3.94MM. Trade rules allow for that modest difference in salaries, which will benefit the Pistons — as a result of this deal and their trade sending Reggie Bullock to the Lakers, they’ve created an extra $2MM+ in breathing room below the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes.

The Pistons will also generate a small trade exception worth the difference in the two players’ salaries ($1,140,682).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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 their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Central Division:

Bobby Portis, Bulls, 23, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6.85MM deal in 2015
Portis turned down a contract extension to give himself a chance to shop his services this summer. Portis has battled a variety of injuries but has finally settled in since the New Year. He erupted for 26 points in 24 minutes in a victory over Miami on Wednesday. Portis is foul prone but can gather rebounds in bunches and is shooting 42.5% from long range since returning to the rotation. He’ll be a restricted free agent if Chicago extends a qualifying offer but Portis’ youth and production could land him an offer sheet once the bigger names are off the board.

Alec Burks, Cavaliers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2015
Burks was acquired from Utah in December because of his $11.5MM expiring contract, but he’s playing regularly and showing off his versatility. Cleveland is using him in more of a playmaking role than he had with the Jazz and he recorded nine assists in a win over Washington on Tuesday. He’s also been shooting it well (45.8% from long range) and contributing on the boards (5.5 RPG) since the New Year began. Burks could be traded again before the February 7th deadline.

Stanley Johnson, Pistons, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.8MM deal in 2015
Johnson got a fresh start after two disappointing seasons due to a coaching change. However, Johnson hasn’t been any better under Dwane Casey than he was with Stan Van Gundy. He’s shooting 26.8% from the 3-point line and doesn’t finish his drives with any consistency. Johnson can be a hard-nose defender but much more was expected from a lottery pick who departed Arizona after one season. Johnson could be a restricted free agent if the Pistons extend a $5.3MM qualifying offer, but there’s an increasing possibility the franchise will let him walk.

Brook Lopez, Bucks, 30, C (Up) — Signed to a one-year, $3.38MM deal in 2018
Lopez’s game has changed dramatically since he entered the league. He does two things very well — stretch defenses with his 3-point prowess and block shots. He delivered both at high levels in January. Lopez shot 48.1% from long range and averaged 2.6 BPG, including a trio of contests in which he swatted five or more shots. Lopez fits well into Milwaukee’s scheme, providing solid production at a bargain basement rate. He should be able to land a bigger contract this summer.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers, 29 (Up)– Signed to a two-year, $21MM deal in 2017
Bogdanovic has steadily increased his production during his five NBA seasons and he’s picking a good time to have a career year. Bogdanovic is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and steals. The Pacers will rely on his marksmanship even more with Victor Oladipo out for the season. A wing player that can knock down 40% of his threes is bound to grab plenty of attention this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pistons Notes: Trade Deadline, Brown, Bullock

If the asset-strapped Pistons are going to make a splash at the NBA trade deadline they’ll have to get creative. As The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III writes, Detroit would presumably need to unload some sizable contracts if they brought back a significant package and the players currently making big money on their roster – outside of Blake Griffin – aren’t particularly desirable.

Edwards writes that Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski isn’t eager to give up a future first-round pick simply to alleviate the cap burden of its weighty contracts (Reggie Jackson‘s $17MM, Jon Leuer‘s $10MM, for example) but those picks could be in play if a solid star comes along. Edwards includes Bradley Beal as a hypothetical possibility that might warrant such a return.

The Pistons have some players that could be considered modest assets ahead of the deadline, including sophomore Luke Kennard and fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson. Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock, similarly, could draw interest from contending teams looking to shore up their rotations with veteran depth.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • While there are plenty of scenarios that could hypothetically jump-start a Pistons rebuild, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes in a weekly mailbag that he’d wager the team stands pat at the deadline. The club may look to shore up its second-unit but lack draft assets to offer in trades.
  • Scrappy first-year guard Bruce Brown has struggled to showcase his elite defensive skills lately, something head coach Dwane Casey‘s believes could be attributable to a famous foe in the basketball world. “I don’t know if it’s a rookie wall or whatever, but just the concentration, the attention to detail,” Casey told Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “Those are mental things that young fellows usually make when they’re mentally fatigued a little bit.
  • In the same blog post, Langlois writes that Reggie Bullock practiced on Wednesday. The 27-year-old sharpshooter and potential trade chip missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained ankle that has plagued him and and off throughout the season. His status is uncertain for Thursday.

Spurs Have Inquired On Wing Players

While the Spurs typically aren’t too active on the trade market during the season, they’ve inquired about possible targets on the wing over the last few months, league sources tell Jabari Young of The Athletic. According to Young, San Antonio had interest in Trevor Ariza but couldn’t put together a package that would work before he was sent from Phoenix to D.C.

Young isn’t 100% sure that the Spurs remain in the market for a wing, but identifies Pistons forward Stanley Johnson as one player who could be on the team’s radar. As Young points out, Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright was part of Detroit’s front office in 2015 when the Pistons drafted Johnson eighth overall, and is believed to still be a big fan of the 22-year-old.

The 20-26 Pistons are tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference and may not be overly interested in moving Johnson as long as they remain in the hunt for a postseason spot. However, if Detroit considers moving the RFA-to-be, the club could seek a protected first-round pick or a pair of second-rounders, says Young.

With only a few months left on Johnson’s contract and the Spurs viewed as a difficult trade partner with whom to negotiate, a trade may be a long shot, Young notes. Nonetheless, it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on as February 7 approaches.

Here are a few more notes out of San Antonio:

  • Pau Gasol looks like one of the more obvious trade candidates on the Spurs’ roster, but a league executive tells Young, “I just don’t see him having any trade value.” Gasol has played limited minutes since returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for a good chunk of the season.
  • Here’s what Gasol had to say when asked if he’d prefer a change of scenery and an opportunity to play more, according to Young: “I’m trying to adjust and keep things in perspective. Everything has a positive outcome. I’m glad my foot is reacting well, and hopefully, I’ll get a chance to build on my minutes and my contribution to the team. Will I love to play more and have a bigger role? Absolutely, because that’s the kind of player and competitor that I am. But at the same time, I follow the coach’s directives, and you got to fulfill a role, whatever that role is. And that’s what you get paid to do. That’s a part of your job as a player.”
  • Spurs general manager R.C. Buford didn’t rule out the possibility of making an in-season trade, adding that the club will “answer the phone” in the coming weeks. However, as Young relays, Buford also didn’t sound overly eager to make any changes. “Our guys are playing well,” Buford said. “You don’t want to disrupt the chemistry.”

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.