A bizarre NBA season could give a former lottery pick the chance to cement themselves into a rotation.
The Lakers, like many teams in the league, had a litany of players for COVID-19 health and safety protocols at the end of December. The shorthanded Lakers signed a standout 10-day struggles deal with Stanley Johnson on Christmas Eve.
Johnson has received praise from Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale in his four games with the team.
“Stanley is huge at what we’re trying to do. With his engine, defensive intensity and prowess, we can really use him right now.
Technically speaking, you could say that the praise came from the active Lakers head coach at the time. Fizdale sat in the big chair for a six-game streak with Frank Vogel also on health and safety protocols.
Vogel sidelined for Friday night’s 139-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Johnson’s ability to hold multiple positions is one of the main reasons he averaged 26.2 minutes per game with the Lakers. The former Mater Dei could be the most important winger defenseman the Lakers are looking for.
Right now, the Lakers sit 13th in the defensive standings (108.6). The hope would be that keeping Johnson equates to more effective defense. The former Arizona Wildcat could be the catalyst, but he’ll need a place in the roster first.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers did just that by swapping goalie Rajon Rondo to the Cavaliers in exchange for goalie Denzel Valentine. Woj reported on Dec. 31 that the Lakers “should forgo Valentine’s partially guaranteed deal and create an open spot on the list.”
Johnson and his defensive versatility will give the Lakers front office a lot to think about when it comes to their final place in the roster.