For the second consecutive year, injuries and absences derailed any hope for the Los Angeles Lakers to get back to the mountaintop.
With the Lakers missing several players in their rotation, they signed Stanley Johnson to a 10-day contract via the NBA’s new Hardship Exemption and it may have been their best move of the season as the forward instantly provided much-needed two-way play on the wing. In his first game with Los Angeles, Johnson came off the bench against the Brooklyn Nets and played excellent defense on James Harden. The Lakers ended up losing the matchup, but saw how Johnson could be mainstay in the rotation.
The young forward would sign a total of three 10-day contracts before L.A. signed him to a standard two-year deal with a team option in the second year. It was a well-earned reward for Johnson who previously spent time with the South Bay Lakers, and he continued to shine for the Lakers despite all their losing.
Johnson would appear in 48 games for the Purple and Gold, starting 27 of them as he former head coach Frank Vogel leaned on him to guard opposing wings and make plays on both ends of the floor. When the Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention, Johnson earned even more playing time where he showed off more of his offensive skillset.
There were not many things for Lakers fans to cheer for during the season, but Johnson’s success story from G-League to starter was a major bright spot.
Johnson cemented his roster spot after an impressive outing in a win against the Utah Jazz. Not known for his scoring, Johnson was a spark plug against the Jazz where he made several tough drives to the rim en route to a 15-point night.
The Arizona product made plays off the bounce in the fourth quarter, bravely attacking Rudy Gobert much to the delight of the Crypto.com Arena crowd. It felt like a coming-out party for Johnson and a glimpse into what he can become as he continues to develop.
After a great showing in his first year with Los Angeles, it feels like a lock that the team will pick up his team option for the 2022-23 season. The roster still revolves around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, so surrounding the two stars with wings like Johnson will be paramount in turning the franchise around and getting back to title contention.