The Los Angeles Lakers came into this season with a lot of big names on their roster, which has delivered mixed results. But oftentimes it has been players coming out of nowhere delivering in a big way for Frank Vogel this season and the latest player to do so is Stanley Johnson.
Johnson was originally signed by the Lakers with a hardship exception as the team was down multiple players due to health and safety protocols. Johnson immediately impressed with his defensive intensity and became a big part of the rotation.
Vogel recently spoke as to what he’s seen from Johnson so far. “His toughness, his defensive disposition, the speed, athleticism and toughness that he brings to the defensive side of the ball is sorely needed,” Vogel said.
“And I think there’s an element of we feel like we’re potentially discovering something with his game that hasn’t been seen by the league in terms of him trying to play as a wing as opposed to what we’ve been using him as basically a defensive small-ball center and someone that can get out and trap pick-and-rolls and those types of things.”
The Lakers have certainly used Johnson in a different way than he’s ever been throughout his career. As Vogel noted, he’s been asked to be a small-ball big man and has thrived defensively. His floor spacing on offense has still been a bit of a struggle, but he has provided enough offensively to go along with his defensive efforts.
But Johnson is still on a 10-day contract, so Vogel and the coaches are still evaluating him as this season goes on.
“Just gives you another elite defender on the floor, but we’ll continue to evaluate him. His attitude has been great, his work ethic has been great and he’s been a pleasant surprise since he’s been here.”
Johnson’s play has undoubtedly warranted a contract for the rest of the year, but whether that will be the case is unclear. The Lakers have always maintained the importance of roster flexibility and with the trade deadline and buyout market approaching that could remain the most important thing. But Johnson has proven to Vogel and everyone else that he should stay in a Lakers uniform going forward.
Vogel believes defense let Lakers down in loss to Kings
Unfortunately Johnson and the rest of the Lakers’ efforts on defense was not enough against the Kings and Vogel spoke to what went wrong.
“We just had a couple dead possessions offensively and we didn’t guard anybody to close out that quarter,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
“I think it was an 8-0 run where, I got to look at the tape, but I feel like we settled offensively and didn’t keep the ball in front of us and didn’t support our teammates. Our shell was too spread out and just a defensive breakdown.”
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