Even with a number of physical limitations dragging him down, Los Angeles Lakers draftee Darius Johnson-Odom has the drive to make this opportunity worth the team’s time and money.
Initially drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Johnson-Odom was acquired by the Lakers in a draft-day trade. Although he slid all the way down to No. 55 overall, it appears that the former Marquette star could be primed for a productive career with the Lakers.
What makes Johnson-Odom an intriguing addition for the Lakers is his above-average shooting and ability to hit from beyond the arch.
Last season with Marquette, Johnson-Odom converted on 44.7 percent of his field goals. He had a career shooting percentage of 44.4, which shows that he’s a capable shooter and someone who the Lakers could eventually rely on as a scoring threat off the bench. Especially considering their recent struggles with getting points from their bench unit, Johnson-Odom could immediately contribute if he adjusts to the speed of the NBA in a timely manner.
As for the outside shooting, Johnson-Odom possesses potential but will need to continue making the three-pointer a more well-rounded aspect of his game. During his senior year with the Golden Eagles he tallied a 38.5 percentage from long range. More impressively, he shot 47.4 percent from downtown during his sophomore year. Even with three-point shooting being such an area of concern for the Lakers, that problem could be a thing of the past if Johnson-Odom returns to his sophomore form.
Even though Johnson-Odom plays the same position as Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ bench is lacking firepower. The unfortunate part of the situation is that he offers little help at other positions considering his size.
Measuring in at 6’2”, 215 pounds, Johnson-Odom doesn’t have the size to play small forward but isn’t the type of defender/passer that the Lakers need at point guard. He does shoot extremely well for a player of his stature, but is a bit limited in the number of roles that he can occupy. Basically, he’s stuck as a spot-up shooting guard unless he can develop some facilitating skills.
On the defensive front, Johnson-Odom is a feisty, hard-nosed player who will do everything within his power to keep the ball out of the basket. Despite his hard-working attitude on defense, he is somewhat limited by his size and lack of elite quickness. He can be overpowered at times but has sufficient lower and upper body strength to hold his ground.
Other weaknesses, including the inability to get to the rim and create shots for his teammates, will hinder his effectiveness with the Lakers. Johnson-Odom isn’t a great ball-handler and struggles to find his way into the paint. Even when he did, shooting in traffic was a clear weakness. Throughout his college career, he also struggled to consistently feed his fellow Golden Eagles, averaging 2.5 assists per game.
There is, however, one factor that should put him on the fast-track towards being an asset for the Lakers: Bryant.
When a young player with the scoring potential that Johnson-Odom holds gets the opportunity to learn behind a legend like Bryant, good things are bound to happen. The Lakers’ star could show him the ropes and provide him with a mentor. Assuming Bryant is willing to help the youngster, it could help the Lakers make the most of Johnson-Odom’s upside.
Even with his number of deficiencies, there’s a great chance that Johnson-Odom will see decent minutes at some point this upcoming season for the Lakers. He might only get in during garbage time to start things off, but should find a way into the rotation with time.
His level of success will depend largely on how coaches and mentors take advantage of the tools that Johnson-Odom has to work with. Despite all of the aforementioned flaws, the Marquette product will certainly give the Lakers some young talent to build a future around.
The Lakers need a backup plan for when Bryant eventually calls it a career. Whenever that day comes, Johnson-Odom could be just the guy to fill the void.
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