#Top5Protected Report will take a look at draft possibilities for the Phoenix Suns both with their own first-round pick and the Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick, which the Suns will own it falls outside of the top five. I'll be bringing you frequent posts on all of the players graded around this range of the draft and their fits in Phoenix.
SF/SG, 6'7", 245 lbs, Freshman (19 in May)
28.3 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 48.3 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 68.4 FT%
It doesn't take you that long to figure out why they call Stanley Johnson "Stanimal." At 6'7" and 245 lbs, Johnson was the heaviest player at the USA U18 camp this summer. A small forward of that size at 18 years old just screams freak and that's exactly what Johnson is. He's an incredible defender, a locomotive in transition, a man amongst boys on the glass, and is quickly adding other facets to his game. Concerns about his jumpshot and consistency on offense have him ranging from 5 to 15 on draft boards. I think he's one of the best five prospects in the draft and the Suns would be lucky to see him slip.
Johnson has the best strength and athleticism out of any lottery prospect this season. Naturally this leads him to being an absolute behemoth in transition.
A tweet from Michael Levin over at Liberty Ballers sums up his game in transition the best.
I've never seen an oxen-gazelle hybrid in transition, but Stanley Johnson just did some stuff.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) November 27, 2014
It's scary how true that comparison is. Johnson has this magnitude and power to him whenever he moves around the floor and it's absolutely terrifying how that doesn't go away when he moves at full speed. Johnson can flat out fly and at least for this element of his game the comparisons are there with a certain royalty figure in the NBA. We got a sample of it in Maui.
We will get to his defense later, but that's really where Johnson's athleticism thrives. His fundamentals are so freaking good that giving a kid his strength and first step is just cruel.
Johnson's shooting from beyond the arc has had scouts very concerned. Some don't buy that Johnson can be an average shooter and that's why some have him in the middle of the first round. Johnson responded with a 43% start to the season on 3's with 2.6 attempts a game.
The main negative on Johnson's jumper is the overall form. At his worst, Johnson keeps the ball relatively low and extends it a little bit away from his body. Think Marion's release, but more pure if that makes sense. When he stays consistent with his form though, it's a good release that looks just fine. We see that release more than the other ugly one this year and that's why he's shooting 43%.
The most important point here is that Johnson didn't really have this in his game two years ago and all of a sudden he's turned into this type of shooter. He got off to a rough start shooting it this season, but he stuck with it and had faith in his jumper. It paid off and his main negative coming into the season could have him leaving for the draft with it as a positive.
Johnson uses his speed as a slasher more than anything on offense. He has now proved that he can hit that open three, but he's still a slasher over anything. He's a tank so you won't see him trying to create space for a jumper that often. He's going to outman you to the rim and can do several different things once he gets by his initial defender.
Johnson sometimes will dunk on your entire family, but he added a floater to his game this season that makes defenders look really stupid. He can hit you with that Wiggins spin move or just stop on a dime, elevate, and calculate the shot as he's gliding through the air and float it home. If anyone actually wants to try to take contact, Johnson will win and most likely get the and-1. I seriously have not seen anybody try to go straight up on him this season because it's a life hazard.
The last part of his slashing game that you will be elated to hear about is his passing. Johnson sees the floor very well and understands how defenses will move when he takes the ball inside. That ability to stop on a dime for his floater extends to his passing, as it gives him that head start on the defense to find the open man. He's a very smart player when he's not forcing it (see below) and moves around the floor naturally.
The element of that playmaking that is Johnson's main fault is that he sometimes tries to do too much. Considering how easy it is for get past his initial man, he forces it when defenses are more aware of what he's going to do and he gets caught in no man's land when he is relying only on what he thinks the defense will do. His strength makes him force shots in the paint as well, as he just assumes he is either going to get fouled or score instead of hitting his open teammate. He will get better with this over time and you know that by the steps he's already made at Arizona this season in this department.
Johnson doesn't have a lot of "bully ball" moves in his arsenal and I think that's the next part of his game to come. He uses that quick first step to occasionally establish post position, but you'd like to see him have more pure post up catches and moves. He's got a strength mismatch 99% of the time at his position, especially if he is playing shooting guard, so he needs to find more ways to take advantage of that.
The best part about Stanley Johnson is his intangibles. He works his ass off on the floor and does so many little things for being the best player on the floor that it makes me sick. He's an excellent rebounder for his size because of that will and gets a ton of his steals because of the extra work he puts in to have the best positioning on defense. He won 4 straight state titles in California and relishes being in the moment and winning.
My favorite Stanley Johnson story was this past summer at LeBron James' basketball camp. LeBron, as he will from time to time, decided to get in on the game against some of the best young talent in the country. Johnson saw him there all week and would say later that "anytime people think there's a player in the gym who's better than me, that's who I wanna play against." Johnson would go up to LeBron and say "you're next." A one-on-one game would commence with Johnson holding his down. To have that much confidence and wanting the big moment more than anyone else is special.
Johnson is a remarkable defender. Like I said, he really puts in the effort to be in the right spots and with his physical gifts that makes him a monster. Instead of going with some more depth, DraftExpres had an excellent breakdown of his game against Michigan you can view instead. Johnson just decided that Michigan's 2 NBA wing prospects were not going to score and starting at 3:08 in this link you will see the job he did. He's ridiculous.
Fit In Phoenix
You could make a real argument for Stanley Johnson on the Suns. P.J. Tucker is 29 and Johnson is a much more well rounded player and prospect than T.J. Warren. If the Suns are locked in on a few prospects and they are gone by the time the Lakers pick pops up, they should take Johnson if he's there because there's a 95% chance he's the best player on the board. There are better overall fits available though with the Suns current roster, so I don't see him as a primary focus.
I think Johnson is going to be a great NBA player and I see a lot of Jimmy Butler in him. At the very least he will be a lethal transition player, lockdown defender, and great rebounder for his position, reminding you of Arizona's two pro prospects last season. We will have to wait till the end of the season to fully remove shooting as a flaw and he still does too much offensively, but the other stuff in his skill set is absolutely there to warrant a high selection in the first round.