Stanley Johnson has finally found a home, signing a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers after spending the last three years on the move.
In 2019, the Detroit Pistons traded their No. 8 overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft to the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth year of his rookie contract. Later in the summer, the defensive-minded forward ended up signing with the Toronto Raptors as a free agent, where he managed to notch 13 starts in 86 games.
But not only did Johnson find himself on the free-agent market again after his two-year deal expired, he nearly exited the NBA for good last year. The 25-year-old landed in the G League after an unsuccessful stint with the Chicago Bulls, who waived him a few days before the 2021-22 season’s tip-off.
However, Johnson got rewarded for his patience and self-belief, earning a permanent contract after he quickly proved to be a good fit with the struggling Lakers while on 10-day deals.
“It was noticeable right away that he had a juice, and energy to his game that our team sorely needed,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “The athleticism, the toughness, the speed, and the way we’re using him as sort of a small-ball center continue to open things up in the lane. We saw some things right away that we felt could really help us this year.
“He’s continued to prove himself as an elite defender and someone that plays within himself offensively and has a versatile offensive skill set that we feel like is really going to help us.”
Johnson clocked in 21.9 minutes per game in his first 16 games for the Lakers, the highest average since his third season in Detroit — when he made 50 starts for the Pistons.
Head coach Frank Vogel explains why Johnson fit in well in L.A.
Despite Johnson’s Southern California roots, Vogel previously explained the forward has thrived since arriving in L.A. because the Lakers have been using the Arizona alum in a way that matches his playing style.
“I think there’s an element of we feel like we’re potentially discovering something with his game that hasn’t been seen by the league in terms of him trying to play as a wing as opposed to what we’ve been using him as basically a defensive small-ball center and someone that can get out and trap pick-and-rolls and those types of things,” the head coach explained.
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