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Stanley Johnson’s Unique Game is too Good to be Overlooked

MAR 14 PAC 12 Tournament - Oregon v Arizona

The NBA draft is just two days away, and after months of scouting, reporting, and analyzing prospects, experts and fans are coming closer to finalizing their draft boards. The usual suspects are sitting at the top of most boards, but once it falls past the top five, there’s less of a consensus. Some players have been covered to death at this point, while others have managed to stray from the limelight and fall through the cracks. In terms of youth, upside, and a lack of a downside, one player that hasn’t had nearly enough coverage and might have as much upside as anyone in the draft is Arizona’s Stanley Johnson.

Johnson is currently ranked 13th by Chad Ford and ranked 8th by Draft Express, which is a spot below where I have him in my personal rankings (which you can see below). There’s no way to quantify the amount of a coverage a player receives, but given his age and talent, it seems like Johnson is being overlooked. There are several reasons for that.

He played on deep Arizona team that played seven different players at least 15 minutes per game and brought back key players from an Elite 8 run from the year before. He was their only freshman who played consistent minutes, and one of two underclassman along with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to start for the Wildcats. He actually led Arizona with 28.4 minutes per game, but those minutes are what you’d expect from a platoon system like Kentucky.

Johnson was part of another Elite 8 run, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in the tournament. He shot 1-12 against Ohio State in the 3rd round, and scored six points shooting 2-4 in the Elite 8 game against Wisconsin. It’s that kind of passive and frenetic play that makes people view Johnson as more of a project than a sure thing. Despite leading Arizona with 13.8 points per game and behind only Hollis-Jefferson with 6.5 rebounds per game, Johnson conceited to his point guard T.J. McConnell in big moments.

NCAA BASKETBALL: NOV 26 Maui Invitational - San Diego State v Arizona

So then the question is, did we see enough from Johnson to come away convinced that he’s worthy of a top-10 selection?

Let’s start by taking a look at his numbers.

He averaged 13.8 point, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 three’s per game, which showcase his offensive and defensive versatility.

Per Sports-Reference, he was one of four players to finish with that stat line this season and one of six freshmen to do it since 1997. The last freshman with that stat line? Kevin Durant in 2007. Carmelo Anthony and Michael Redd are also on that list, so I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Johnson has a fantastic physical profile for a wing player, standing at 6’7” with a 6’11.5” wingspan and a filled out 245 lb frame. He drew a healthy 6.6 free throw attempts and grabbed 9.1 boards per 40 minutes, and also thrived in transition. Those are all attributes of an athletic, powerful wing player.

He uses those tools on the defensive end to disrupt passing lanes and body up his man, and if his effort keeps up, he could be a terror on that end. Of course those numbers would be for naught if he didn’t have a jumper to go along with it.

He’s a legit two-way player, making 43 three pointers shooting 37.1% and showing off a surprisingly deadly mid-range game, hitting 44.4% of his two point jumpers, which made up 41.5% of his offense, per Hoop-Math.

With the help of Draft Express, here’s a chart showcasing his offensive versatility:

Stanley

His ability to hit both catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble jumpers at an elite ability are enticing and rarely seen from such a young player, let alone a player with the physical and defensive acumen to go along with it. You can’t be Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler without being able to thrive on both sides of the ball, and Johnson certainly does that.

On the surface, there aren’t many notable weaknesses in Johnson’s game, but of course, there’s a reason why he’s not going to be the first off the board on the Thursday.

MAR 26 Div I Men's Championship - Sweet Sixteen - Xavier v Arizona

Are teams making a mistake by looking past Stanley Johnson?

He’s a capable passer, averaging 2.3 assists per 40 minutes, but his decision making and passing accuracy will need to improve, as he also averaged 3.0 turnovers per 40 minutes.

On top of that, he’ a far worse finisher than you’d expect from a player with his athleticism and length. According to Hoop-Math, shots at the rim only made up 28.7% of his offense, and he shot just 52.7% from there, which was the worst in Arizona’s starting lineup by 12.7%. His ability to get out in transition and draw free throws are a solid predictor for his success at the rim, and with defenders staying true to his jumper, he’ll continue to get some free lanes to the rim.

Stanley Johnson was miscast on a team full of vets at Arizona, and his inconsistent play and effort gave scouts some pause. But he has a complete game with the physical tools to go along with it. With that, Johnson has convinced me he’s worthy of a top-10 pick, and if he continues to improve, he might be worth even more.

  1. D’Angelo Russell
  2. Karl-Anthony Towns
  3. Jahlil Okafor
  4. Justise Winslow
  5. Kristaps Porzingis
  6. Emmanuel Mudiay
  7. Stanley Johnson
  8. Myles Turner
  9. Mario Hezonja
  10. Devin Booker
  11. Kevon Looney
  12. Willie Cauley-Stein
  13. Kelly Oubre
  14. Jerian Grant
  15. Frank Kaminsky
  16. Tyus Jones
  17. Delon Wright
  18. Cameron Payne
  19. Bobby Portis
  20. Sam Dekker
  21. Trey Lyles
  22. R.J. Hunter
  23. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  24. Montrezl Harrell
  25. Rashad Vaughn
  26. Dakari Johnson
  27. Guillermo Hernangomez
  28. Cliff Alexander (total gamble)
  29. Christian Wood
  30. Pat Connaughton

Next five out: Justin Anderson, Cedi Osman, Tyler Harvey, J.P. Tokoto, Shawn Dawson

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