18-year-old small forward Stanley Johnson believes he can quickly become an impact defender in the NBA.
“In today’s day and age, it’s about defensive versatility. How many people you can guard and how well you can do it,” said Johnson on Thursday at a Santa Barbara workout in front of approximately 150 NBA executives, hosted by his agent Bill Duffy.
“I can guard fours. I can guard Draymond Green. I can guard Kawhi Leonard. I can guard Mike Conley — I can stay with him at least,” he continued. “You guard people in stints, I can definitely stint the minutes for sure.”
Johnson, a 6’7 freshman at Arizona, acknowledged he might be at a disadvantage against some of the bigger, stronger power forwards.
“Maybe not Z-Bo. He’s a big dude,” Johnson said of Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph. “Guys who are more finesse, guys who are slower, I can take care of them.”
Johnson believes he still has a lot more to show on the offensive end as well.
Through 38 games with the Wildcats, he averaged 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals, while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range.
“I think there’s skill to my game which I didn’t get to show in college,” Johnson said. “We had a simple offense.
“How fast people were coming over to me, for me to get into my bag a little bit and try to do all that fancy stuff, it would result in zero points instead of me getting my two points off.”
Johnson said he learned valuable team concepts at Arizona. Now he’ll be able to bring that to the NBA, along with his individual skills.
“One day I want to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” he said. “The process of getting to that, each day, each team, each practice, gaining the trust of the veterans, learning from the veterans who are going to be there, is one of the things that I’ve dreamed about forever.”
Johnson, who turns 19 on May 29, said he’ll be in the green room in New York at the NBA draft.
“It’s going to be a journey. It’s something I’ll always remember, for sure,” he said. “I’m very, very excited.”
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