Stanley Johnson says Kyrie Irving won Cavs 2016 series vs. Pistons while recalling 4-game sweep

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced Stanley Johnson and the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. The Cavaliers made quick work of the Pistons, as they swept Detroit in four games en route to the 2016 NBA title.

Johnson recently recalled the Cavs sweeping the Pistons back in 2016 and said that Irving won Cleveland the series more than James did.

“These games are margins, and what gets a sweep done is winning by one, not winning by 20 every game. So we were definitely competitive, which is not saying much, but it was really fun, and you hear what Bron’s saying, [Rajon] Rondo I think I heard him on a pod talking about coaching in the game and s— like that, that was the difference in our series.”

The California native then spoke about Irving.

“Kyrie Irving — he’s different,” Johnson said. “… As good as LeBron was, that series, in my opinion, was won by Kyrie.”

Johnson was selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after one season playing college basketball at the University of Arizona. He proved himself to be one of the top wings in the nation, as he averaged 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game across 38 appearances with the Wildcats (37 starts).

Johnson’s contributions on both ends of the floor translated into a whole lot of wins for the 2014-15 iteration of the Wildcats. They finished the season with an excellent 34-4 record and made it all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, where they lost to the University of Wisconsin-Madison by a final score of 85-78. Johnson scored just six points and converted two of his four field-goal attempts in the loss.

The 27-year-old has played for five teams — the Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans — across his eight seasons in the NBA. He averaged 5.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in 30 games played with the Spurs during the 2022-23 regular season (zero starts).

Arguably Johnson’s best season in the NBA came during the 2017-18 season when he was still a member of the Pistons. The wing averaged a career-high 8.7 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 69 appearances with the Pistons during the regular season (50 starts).

An NBA team would be wise to sign Johnson before the start of the 2023-24 regular season. After all, his numbers in limited minutes with the Spurs a season ago indicate that he can still serve as an effective role player at the NBA level.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.