The Detroit Pistons have to be happy with the early returns on the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Stanley Johnson. The forward out of Arizona is averaging 17 points, 6.7 rebounds, two assists and two steals in his 28.1 minutes per game in three contests. No, the regular season hasn’t started just yet but Johnson, along with a slew of other Pistons players seeking to carve out their niche for the upcoming campaign, are participating in the Orlando Summer League.
Johnson has led the team in scoring and rebounds in two of the team’s three games. After an 11-point loss to the Orlando Magic White team on July 4, Johnson had 24 points and nine rebounds in an eight-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers on the following day, before recording 14 points and seven assists in a five-point loss to the Miami Heat in the club’s most recent affair. The team’s next contest is July 8 against the Indiana Pacers and is a good opportunity to see some of the Pistons’ roster hopefuls.
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The Orlando Summer League, which is running from July 4-10, includes two Magic teams (White and Blue), the Pistons, Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Nets, Pacers, and Thunder. Other roster invites for Detroit include second-round pick Darrun Hilliard out of Villanova, 2014 second-round pick Spencer Dinwiddie and 2015 undrafted free agents Kendall Gray and Julian Washburn.
There’s a strong chance Johnson is thrust into the starting lineup right away. Recently signed Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Jennings are slated to be the starting guards, while Andre Drummond anchors the paint with Greg Monroe departing to the Milwaukee Bucks. If he’s not a starter, there’s a solid chance he’ll have his shot at playing excessive minutes off the bench.
Johnson is projected to be the type of player that can boost Detroit Pistons ticket sales sooner rather than later. In the Eastern Conference, a boost from the Pistons’ 32-50 season to a 40-win level isn’t that out of reach. The Brooklyn Nets were rewarded with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 38-44 record last season, and the Pistons exhibited in the second half of last season that their ceiling actually could bring them well above that mark. The 2015-16 season could mark the return to the postseason for Motown.