The Lakers have one major problem with tanking and its because almost everyone on the team is signed to a one-year deal. The only Lakers under guaranteed contracts for next season are Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre. Everyone else on the team is fighting for a new contract with an NBA team – the Lakers or otherwise. While the front office has certainly been evaluating all of the talent, one player still isn’t exactly a “known” quantity. That player is Xavier Henry.
The Lakers know what they have in Nick Young. They signed him to be a gunner off the bench and he has shown that he is exceptional at that role. The Lakers knew what they were getting when the signed Jordan Farmar, a young point guard with championship experience. When the Lakers signed Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry, they were rolling the dice with two former lottery picks who they thought could use a change of scenery. Johnson has shown to be an adequate wing player, playing decent to good defense and shooting the three at a slightly above league average mark. Xavier hasn’t gotten to show what he can truly be.
Henry has only played in 41 games due to a bone bruise in his knee which lingered. In those games, Xavier has shown flashes of brilliance and dashes of disastrous recklessness. Last night against the Knicks, Xavier showed why he was a lottery pick at one time. He shot 8-11 from the field and ended with 22 points in 23 minutes. Oh yeah, he did all of that with a torn ligament in his wrist as well. But there are also a few too many 1-7, 2-8, and 2-9 performances in his game log this season. Some of this inconsistency comes from not getting regular playing time. Xavier has played 14 minutes during certain games and 36 minutes another night.
Keep in mind, this all comes from a player on a new team, who just turned 23 years old. Xavier gives the Lakers something that they have lacked in recent history – a quick, slashing wing who can create their own shot. Not only this, but Xavier is proving how mentally and physically tough he is by finishing out the year with a torn ligament in his wrist. That is the type of mentality the Lakers need more of – the Kobe mentality.
Most Lakers fans would like to see Nick Young re-signed, but the real issue will be if they can afford to keep him. Young has played very well this season, hasn’t been a headache or distraction to the team, and has submitted one of the best seasons of his career. As a 28 year old who just played out this season on a veteran’s minimum contract, he will certainly be looking for a payday. With the Lakers wanting to retain flexibility for free agency in the summer of 2015, it is unlikely they’ll lock up Young to a larger money deal he may be looking for.
So the Lakers next best option is Xavier Henry. He will certainly be a cheaper option to retain but provides the Lakers with something they don’t already have. Young has taken a lot of shots this season, but most of those will be gobbled up by Kobe next season. Henry’s ability, toughness, and potential cost efficiency make him the perfect choice to be re-signed for next season and possibly beyond.