It’s been a rough year for Johnson, the No. 8 pick in last year’s draft. He’s shooting terribly, deferring too often, making bad decisions when he forces the action and, despite high effort on that end, defending ineffectively. Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy has publicly questioned Johnson’s work ethic and even suspended him a game for violating team rules.
Yet, Johnson remains a talented 20-year-old with more than two years remaining on his low-paying rookie-scale contract. So, other teams are calling Detroit to check his availability.
Sources have told CSNChicago.com the Pistons have resisted overtures for Johnson but with the recent developments, expect executives for rival teams to be more aggressive.
Whether the Pistons trade Johnson should depend on what they can get, but I suspect there’s another factor.
Johnson was Van Gundy’s first first-round pick as front-office chief, and Van Gundy passed on highly touted Justise Winslow to draft Johnson. Van Gundy’s reputation is tied to Johnson’s, and a sell-low trade would reflect poorly on Van Gundy.
That could be felt both explicitly and implicitly within the Pistons’ organization. Van Gundy was obviously drawn to Johnson’s competiveness and history of winning, and that connection doesn’t just disappear.
Marcus Morris has exceeded expectations in Detroit, and Tobias Harris pushes Johnson further down the pecking order. Johnson might not be the key building block the Pistons once viewed him as, but that hardly means they’ll rush to trade him, either.