Last Night was the first step of many for 60 young men in their NBA Career. At 7pm EST, the NBA Draft began and the future of the NBA was planned out as teams drafted and traded a bunch of 19-22 year olds who are about to be worth a lot of money.
The beginning of the draft came with minimal surprises, Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky went 1st overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, he Los Angeles Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant’s new protege D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State and the Philadelphia 76ers continued to hoard giants as they drafted National Champion Jahlil Okafor from Duke. The first surprise, though I personally don’t think it was all that surprising was the New York Knicks taking Kristaps Porzingas, a 7’1″ project player from Latvia instead of taking Justise Winslow, another talented player from the National Champion Duke Blue Devils.
Because of that pick, Winslow was able to fall to the #8 pick which happened to be the pick of the team we care about, The Detroit Pistons. It was no secret coming in that Detroit needed a small forward and word is that the three players who were being talked about were Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson from Arizona, and Mario Hezonja, a sharpshooter from Croatia. Unfortunately Hezonja had been picked at #5 by the Orlando Magic so it was down to Winslow or Johnson. Most fans or “experts” would have taken Winslow over Johnson so it was a bit of a shock when the pick came in and it was announced that the Pistons had selected Stanley Johnson.
At first, I was disappointed, I wanted Winslow, I thought he was better, and it felt like the team was making a mistake. But now, I’m here to tell you why it wasn’t a mistake and instead, it was the perfect pick.
Let’s start with attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I think Winslow has a great attitude, I think he wants to win, and I think he’d love to play for any team that drafted him but the thing is, Stanley Johnson wanted to be a Piston. This is something fans of Detroit sports teams are not really used to hearing. What? Someone actually wants to play in Detroit!? You can tell he’s already really sold on being a Piston, just take a look at his interview following the draft. Detroit vs Everybody. A phrase that many who live in Detroit or are fans of Detroit sports know and love. And finally, he has confidence and a bit of swagger. Don’t tell Stanley Johnson he isn’t the best player in the class, because he won’t believe you.
Next, we can talk about talent and play style. A lot of people will say Winslow had a better season than Johnson, and maybe it’s true after all, Winslow and Duke won a National Championship and Johnson and the Wildcats did not. But if you look at the stats, the players themselves weren’t all that different:
Justise Winslow: 39 G, 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 APG
Stanley Johnson: 38 G, 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 APG
They’re pretty similar if you just look at stats, but of course, nothing is that simple. You can’t just look at stats to determine who’s the better player. This, is where I’m going to argue that it’s not fair to compare the two in the first place. They are two completely different players who can do different things.
First of all, Stanley Johnson is much bigger than Justise Winslow. Johnson is 6’7″ 245lbs to Winslow’s 6’6″ 220lbs. Second, Winslow played his best when he was playing power forward for Duke not small forward, in the NBA, Winslow isn’t going to be able to play that position, he’s simply no big enough. Whereas Johnson was playing shooting guard all throughout the season when he’s really supposed to be a small forward. I’m not the first to make this comparison, but Stanley Johnson could be the next Ron Artest, or Metta World Peace, or The Panda’s Friend, or whatever he calls himself theses days. Hopefully only in play style and not mental stability and temper of course.
He’s just really a unique type of player. One you can’t define by stats. He’s going to be a force defensively, and hopefully a tank on offense. I love this pick more and more as I talk about it and I’m really excited to see how it plays out.