Balanced starting rosters can mean the difference between winning and losing. Too many scorers in the starting lineup can disrupt team chemistry. The key is to find what each player does best, and use those elements within a team concept on both ends of the floor.
Enter Wesley Johnson.
Wesley Johnson is not a shot creator. He’s not a dominant offensive option. He is a great role player with tremendous physical tools. He is a 27 year-old player, now entering his prime. According to Draftexpress.com, at the 2010 draft combine, he was measured with a 7’1″ wingspan, an 8’10″ standing reach, and a maximum vertical jump at 37″. These numbers are better than Julius Randle at the power forward slot, with a 7′ wingspan, an 8’10″ standing reach, and a maximum vertical at 35.5″. The point is, he has the length of a power forward while playing a wing position.
Let’s consider Wesley Johnson starting at small forward. He would play beside Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill in the front court. Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin would play in the backcourt. Wesley Johnson’s role on offense is to slash to the basket off-the-ball, and hit open perimeter shots. Last year, he shot a career high 36.9% behind the arc on a career high of 42.5% from the field. He’s a tremendous finisher at the cup shooting 63.9% within 3′ from the hoop. His midrange game needs a lot of work. This is where Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer come in. Both of them are good mid-range shooters and can set things up for Wesley Johnson to finish at the rim.
One of his best games as Laker happened last year. Zero dribbles; 27 points and 3 blocked shots with 6, 3-point field goals.
Defensively, he can save Kobe Bryant’s legs while taking on the toughest perimeter assignment. He can learn a lot just from defending Kobe Bryant in practice. Imagine what he could do with better defensive IQ along with his physical tools. Statistically, his per-36 minutes of play included 1.4 steals per game and 1.1 blocks per game; showing great impact from a player who is slowly becoming a better individual defender, not just a team defender.
Players that can hit the long range shot and defend well are a key component to competitive teams. The Lakers have a player who can fulfill that role, save Kobe Bryant’s legs, and allow Nick Young to come off the bench and provide a spark.
The best place for him, is to start. When he succeeds, the Lakers win.