Stanley Johnson has been one of the few positives that came out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021-22 season, emerging as a valuable role player the franchise can build around for the future.
Johnson joined L.A. in December and quickly earned the trust of the coaching staff thanks to his hustle and toughness.
Head coach Frank Vogel once again said the Lakers had lacked that type of energy before the forward’s arrival, particularly on the defensive end.
“Stanley has really given us a big lift this year,” Vogel said. “His toughness, how hard he plays, the physicality that he plays with, the hustle that he plays with. It’s something that this group really needed.
“Obviously, it’s reflected in the role he carved out for himself right away when we signed him. He came in and played a ton of minutes for us and obviously he was a big part of the win tonight. Obviously, the offseason decision will be made then, but he’s made a case for himself for sure.”
The Lakers can extend Johnson’s contract for 2022-23 by picking up the team option in his contract. It’s hard to see L.A. passing up on the opportunity to bring the forward back considering his high-level production — and the fact he would earn a minimum-level salary next year.
Besides, Vogel said Johnson has proven to be a valuable role player, similar to those that starred for the Lakers during their 2019-20 title run.
“You want people to come in and be able to star in their roles,” the head coach said. “Sometimes that means a veteran player that’s taking a lesser role. Sometimes that means a rookie player like Austin [Reaves] who comes in and has a bright future ahead of him, but for this year’s team, he’s a role player.
“I had Paul George as a rookie and he was a fifth scoring option on our team until Danny Granger went down and then his role changed. I think Stanley is in a place now where he went through his rookie contract, had some success, but didn’t the last couple years have a lot of success.
“For him to be in the minor leagues to start the season and have another chance to get back after it and came in with a refreshed spirit, sometimes that’s the best time to get a guy who’s really in his prime and can come in and star as a role player. Because those guys are extremely valuable. When we had our championship run, we had several guys staring in their roles as role players and I do see that with Stanley Johnson.”
Johnson wants to continue progress over the summer and return to Lakers for 2022-23 season
Johnson said the 2021-22 season with the Lakers has been “unfulfilling” when it comes to the team’s subpar performance. However, the forward thinks he’s grown a lot during his time with the Purple and Gold — and hopes he can return to L.A. next year to continue his progress.
“Me personally, I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve had here, I’ve learned a lot, especially being around all this Hall of Fame talent and a bunch of really good people,” Johnson said.
“I will look forward to being here if they will have me, but for me, I’ve grown a lot even coming from South Bay all the way up.”
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