The Progression of Stanley Johnson


Stanley Johnson could have picked virtually any school in the country; UCLA, Syracuse, Kansas, Louisville, UConn and Kentucky. Through it all, Johnson chose Arizona, where he’s deemed by many as a one-and-done prospect.

Johnson entered Arizona as the #3 recruit in the country, behind names Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Muddiay and ahead of Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner, Tyus Jones and Kelly Oubre.

For some reason though, the hype around Johnson was far less than the hype surrounding the entrance of Aaron Gordon, the #4 recruit in the country. One could argue that Gordon’s recruiting class was far more talented than Johnson’s.

In Gordon’s class, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Noah Vonleh and Joel Embiid all were first round lottery picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. That’s not even mentioning the Harrison twins, who led Kentucky to a national title, as well as Chris Walker and Casey Hill, who both helped Florida to become the overall #1 seed in the tournament.

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Now Gordon and Johnson are both totally completely different players, with Gordon being a flashy playmaker while Johnson is a versatile scoring guard. If you compare the two through their first 13 games, Johnson seems to be far ahead of where Gordon was at this point in the season.

Through 13 games, AG recorded four double-doubles compared to just two for Johnson. However, Johnson’s game is well-rounded, whether it’s his drive to the lane, shot from outside, free throws or defense. With Gordon, he was inconsistent, with his lack of scoring abilities and concentration at the free throw line.

It’s consistency that has been the key for Johnson thus far.

As Arizona’s leading scorer, his points per game don’t even tell the least of it. He’s only scored less than 14 points in just four games this season, shooting 47 percent from the field, which is among the best in the Pac-12.

When you look at his teammates, he’s shooting worse than all but one of the main six in Sean Miller’s rotation, the one being T.J. McConnell (42 percent). As Johnson continues to learn and thrive in the system, his shooting percentage should continue to increase. Although, one could argue that he’s such a large threat that he will receive extra attention from defenses.

Listed at 6-foot-7, Johnson has the advantage of being able to play the 1-3 spots with ease. What hurt Gordon’s draft stock was that many saw him as an “tweener” between the three and four spots with his wide, yet odd set of skills.

At 6-foot-7, mostly playing the two guard, Johnson is averaging just under seven rebounds a game. Whether he just has a nose for the basket or hustles for every ball, there aren’t too many guards averaging close to that number.

In multiple mock drafts, Johnson is going no later than fifth overall. We’re not even in conference play and he’s already projected higher than Gordon once was. With Okafor being the consensus #1 pick already, it’s all on Johnson to keep climbing the boards.

As he continues to improve, Johnson might just be a household name by March.