How the Detroit Pistons Have Failed Amir Johnson

Ray StoneCorrespondent IMay 2, 2009

CHICAGO - MARCH 24: Amir Johnson #25 of the Detroit Pistons puts up a shot against Brad Miller #52 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center March 24, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pistons 99-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The drafting miscues haven't been the only soft spot for the Pistons under Joe Dumars.

Amir Johnson shines as a good example of how the Detroit Pistons do not do a good job of developing players. 

A 6-foot-9 kid out of high school is a blank canvas in the NBA.  The Pistons drafted this broad-shouldered young man from LA and had an opportunity to develop him however they wanted.

Johnson is very quick off of the floor, has a nose for the ball, and he effortlessly flies up and down the basketball court as fast as anyone his size in the NBA. 

The Pistons were the elite team in the Eastern Conference when AJ got to town.  He saw virtually NO playing time during his first couple seasons.  No development.    

Funny thing is, the team was supposedly ‘running out of gas’ in the post-seasons,  after the starters logged heavy minutes during the regular season.

It’s really odd.

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Very strange to watch a team supposedly run out of gas, when they have a bouncy 19-year-old kid who would love to get on the floor and hustle for them.   He was in street clothes a lot of games.

They were the best team in the conference, but why not start to groom the young guy right away? 

It would have cost you some leads and games perhaps, but the Eastern Conference was hideous back then.  It wouldn’t have mattered much at all.  He would gain experience.  Plus most importantly, its saves gas for the games that count. 

But there he sat. 

Suddenly this year the Pistons announced that they would start Amir Johnson at the power forward position.  What?  (Had they planned on this being a rebuilding year from the very beginning?)

He was clearly not ready to start.  He hadn’t even been giving any consistent playing time at all in his career, now he’s going to be a starter in the NBA?  WTH?

That’s not how it works.

After being thrown to the wolves and chewed up, Johnson was eventually benched again.  Amir finished this campaign in a familiar fashion, glued to the Detroit bench. 

It is too bad for the young guy.  I really hope he is moved in a deal this summer for his sake.  He needs a real opportunity to develop his basketball game. 

He certainly has the talent to play at a high level in this league.   

Too bad he didn’t land of a club like the Atlanta Hawks, or the 76ers, whose style of play is perfect for young athletic guys. 

They both play a more up-tempo, attacking style game.  Full court pressing after made baskets, Amir would fit quite well into a system like that.

I think it would benefit Amir to work on his offensive game facing the basket.  Develop more of a small forward’s game as opposed to a power forward’s. 

Despite the slow start to his career, he still has years to iron out his game. 

He should aspire to be far more than just the rebounding, shot-blocking, hustle player role that this team carved out for him.  The sky is the limit for the young man if he has a chance to learn the game. 

There was little opportunity to do so in Detroit.

If he is dealt this summer, he should smile as he packs his bags.  If he’s put in a good situation, I think we will hear a lot from Amir Johnson in years to come.

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