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Stanley Johnson Reportedly Exercises $3.8M Raptors Contract Option for 2020-21

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2020

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 17:  Stanley Johnson #5 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Washington Wizards at Scotiabank Arena on January 17, 2020 in Toronto, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Stanley Johnson has exercised his $3.8 million player option to return to the Toronto Raptors for the 2020-21 season, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic.

The Raptors have done a great job nurturing young players during Masai Ujiri's time in the front office. 

Pascal Siakam is the most obvious example, winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2019 and becoming an All-Star in 2020. While not reaching those heights, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell have all thrived north of the border.

Perhaps Ujiri envisioned Johnson being another success story.

The eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, he spent his first three-and-a-half years with the Detroit Pistons.

His most famous moment in the Motor City came when he told reporters he was "definitely in [LeBron James'] head" during the 2016 playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Pistons, and James averaged 22.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists over the series.

Johnson moved on to the New Orleans Pelicans in February 2019 as part of a three-team trade.

Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, he was unable to adjust his trajectory too much in Toronto. He made 25 appearances for the Raptors, averaging 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds. He also shot 37.3 percent from the field and 7-of-24 from beyond the arc. He missed some time because of a stress reaction in his groin.

Johnson ranked 21st among small forwards in ESPN.com's real defensive plus-minus (plus-1.25) in 2018-19. While a solid defender, his inefficient shooting limits his overall ceiling and how much he sees the floor.

His decision to pick up his 2020-21 option wouldn't have been surprising under normal circumstances. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic gave Johnson even more incentive to wait until next summer to hit free agency. With so many teams having to tighten their belts due to lost revenue, a contract matching what he's set to earn may not have been sitting there now. 

Perhaps spending another full season in Toronto—one possibly not interrupted by a global pandemic—will help get his development back on track.

Of course, that assumes the Raptors don't ship him out of town and send him to his fourth franchise in six seasons.

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