Wes Johnson is almost getting there as a solid contributor to this rather disappointing Los Angeles Lakers team. He’s put into the starting lineup for his defense and despite the low production during the first few games of the season, he plays solid D for the Lakers every time he’s on the court.
When a certain article came out that MDA is apparently grooming him to become a Shawn Marion type of player, a lot of NBA fans reacted violently. Of course, Shawn Marion v. Wesley Johnson will be a totally different thing. I won’t EVEN go there. I won’t defend him against Marion. Instead, I would like to make a case for Wesley Johnson’s impact on this current Lakers team.
Call it a supreme case of admiration or whatever, but I like what he brings to the team. I didn’t like him at first. I thought the only reasons he landed in L.A. were because he shares the same agent as Kobe and he’s cheap, budget-wise. Well, so much for first impressions. Wesley JaMarr Johnson has grown on me. His hops, his blocks, and his sweet reverse dunk on Paul Pierce (just recently) are some of the reasons why he makes me want to cheer for him every game.
Wesley Johnson’s greatest asset is his wingspan. Listed 6’7 in height, Wes has a 7-1 wingspan. Obviously, this is always an advantage in basketball. Longer wingspan means extra inch to finish at the rim, higher probability of catching a portion of an opponent’s shot, and ability to swoop in on passing lanes for deflections and steals. And these are just defensively! Offensively, easy dunks and getting a shot off a defender in front are some of the things that he can effortlessly offer.
Wes is shooting 52% threes for the past 8 games (6/7 vs. Detroit!). For comparison, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love are shooting 23.3% and 30.4% in 3-point territory respectively. Somehow, the data are probably inflated for a small sample size, but it’s nice to see Wes improve his shots in the 3-point arc because in the MDA system, shooting threes is very important. Johnson probably worked on his 3-point shooting because it has consistently improved. It might have been the system or Kobe but whatever it is, I’m glad it’s helped him revamp his game and I hope he continues this.
Wes is 15th in the league in blocks. Yeah, you might say 15th isn’t exactly very enticing. Imagining that there are 14 people that are better than him is not interesting at all. Let me build my case while you shrug off his ranking. Try to look closer at the data, and you’ll realize that he’s the smallest guy (6 ft. 7) among those “blockers” above him such as Roy Hibbert, Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka and Dwight Howard. Awesome, yeah?
Also, according to NBA stats, he’s 13th in defensive impact in the league. (His ranking is higher than Pau Gasol!) Again, those players who have higher defensive rating than he has are all 6’10 and above. It is to be observed as well that he’s just playing ~24mins/game. Everyone else in the top 20 is playing more minutes than him except Dalembert.
*data as of 11/30/2013*
- Exceptional leaping ability
- Can play multiple positions (SG, PF, SF)
Apart from shooting more consistently, the thing that Wesley Johnson needs to work on is rebounding. Although Pau and Hill are crashing the boards like beasts, Wes can also use this time to add rebounding to his arsenal. He’ll probably grab more rebounds than any time in his career now as a Laker but there’s no harm in broadening one’s skill set especially when someone has those incredible hops and long arms.
Once Kobe comes back, it is very probable that he might be given a considerable amount of playing time. I don’t know what rotation will D’Antoni randomly use this time but I can’t see two big men with Kobe on the floor because that would slow down our defense. With that, the opportunity is wide open for Johnson to make an impact.
Based on the last games’ stats, Wesley Johnson is an asset defensively (his blocks are awesome!) and in the 3pt. area (~52% 3P%). He needs to improve his rebounding and be consistent in his shooting to make a complete team impact.