If there is any silver lining to the Los Angeles Lakers losing nearly half of their rotation to the health and safety protocols, it’s the emergence of Stanley Johnson. Alongside LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, Johnson has finally provided the team with desperately needed wing defense.
Johnson had long been known as a good perimeter defender. However, lackluster offensive output dropped the former lottery pick all the way to the G League, where he spent some time with the South Bay Lakers before ultimately getting the 10-day hardship contract with L.A.
In four games with the Lakers, Johnson has been a consistent defensive presence while providing more than expected on the offensive end. It has caught the attention of nearly everyone keeping up with the Lakers, including James himself.
James spoke about what Johnson has brought to the Lakers and why he can continue to be valuable.
“He’s picked up our system really fast and part of it is because he was with South Bay [Lakers] and that gave him a cheatsheet, which we needed,” James said of Johnson. “And he brought in some toughness at the wing position and also some defensive toughness as well.
“That’s where we hang our hats at over the last three years, the defensive side of the floor. He’s a guy that’s hungry, obviously he’s trying to earn a roster spot, you could tell he’s hungry and it’s been great basketball since the Christmas Day game. The road trip, Houston, Memphis and tonight once again, and hopefully it continues.”
Johnson’s 10-day contract is nearing its expiration date. However, James’ comments appear to confirm that he may be in for a longer stay. The ongoing belief is that the Lakers are in the process of trading Rajon Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to open up a roster spot for Johnson.
That trade has not been officially completed yet, meaning the Lakers don’t yet have the ability to sign Johnson to the full-time roster. But once it does happen, it would be unsurprising to see the 10-day wing defender become a permanent part of the roster and rotation.
On this team, any wing defender that gives consistent effort is going to stand out, and Johnson absolutely has taken advantage of that.
James comments on careless turnovers
While James focused solely on the positives with Johnson, he did also speak about the negatives that have been plaguing the team this season. One of the biggest issues he mentioned was “careless turnovers,” something L.A. desperately needs to cut down on.
“We all have attack turnovers, which is OK, we have a lot of attackers and we understand that. But the careless turnovers where literally you just turn the ball and there’s no pressure or there’s no reason for it, those are the ones that get us in trouble.”
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