Prior to the beginning of the season, I posed a question about Wesley Johnson. Can Wesley Johnson be a stretch-four for the Lakers? Over 20 games into the season, the answer is a resounding, no.
I likened his game to Shawn Marion, without the awkward shot. I thought his role would be power forward down the line, to steal minutes in a heavy wing-position roster. I related their talents and position trajectory, noting how similar they were in terms of field goal percentage, the way they played, how they defend, and keep the ball moving. It’s clear his position isn’t at power forward, but, down the line, he has a position on the team.
His game is progressing and maturing in a way that is very beneficial for the team. Usually, it’s Jordan Farmar who comes off the bench, providing energy and spark, and pushing the ball upcourt. When Wesley Johnson steps onto the court, he provides an extra bit of bounce on both ends of the floor.
In transition, he’s arguably the fastest player on the team. In half-court situations, he spots up at the corners, where he is shooting at a 42% rate behind the arc. His shot pocket has changed slightly, but his shot trajectory has more arc to it, leading to more consistency from the field.
There are hints of increasing confidence in his offensive game He’s generally considered turnover prone in isolation situations, but there are the occasional glimpses of him taking a one or two bounce dribble before pulling up from 20′. He knocks them down.
Defensively, he’s the team’s leading shotblocker. His shotblocking doesn’t come in a usual way, based on team rotation and help in a half-court setting. Rather, he’s able to block shots in transition, something we haven’t seen since Kobe’s prime defensive years or Michael Cooper’s entire career. That bounce and energy is his way of being a playmaker, being impactful, and changing the energy level and momentum for the Laker team.
For the year, he’s averaging 8.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg, 1.4bpg, and 1.2stlpg, in just under 26 minutes of play. There are no calls made for him offensively, but he’s taking advantage of being the 3rd or 4th option on offense.
Admittedly, there is a little slump to his game right now. With Farmar and Blake out, he lost the consistency of solid point guard play, where he could shoot without hesitation, gamble on defense without much repercussion, and cut to the basket for easy dunks at the hoop. Considering he’s averaging 26 minutes a game with names like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, and Jodie Meeks all deserving of 30 minutes per game for this Laker team, speaks volumes of his impactful play. It’s only a matter of time before he makes the adjustment to playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as a 1-2 punch, and he becomes the hook that knocks teams out.
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