If there was one player on the Los Angeles Lakers that I was immediately struck by at the beginning of the season, it was Wesley Johnson. This is a talent that hasn’t quite put it together in his short career to make an immense impact on the court. Johnson possesses some all-world tools, but lacks a killer instinct to consistently dominate.
The first thing you notice is the versatility. He can defend multiple positions and has great length to disrupt the opponent’s offense. Johnson is a more than capable weak-side rim protector and steals specialist. Think of the tools Trevor Ariza had, except Johnson has a better jump shot and is taller. On the most recent road trip, the Syracuse alum put it together, averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds per game.
The problem is being able to keep the production up. Johnson has a tendency to float through games and even weeks at a time. He is in desperate need of a mentor that will crack the whip if he loses his edge. Kobe Bryant would be the perfect in this role but as we know, he has been sidelined most of the season.
When Johnson shows intensity and a sense of urgency, he can change the game. Not too many people have his combination of athleticism and instincts. Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, he registered five steals and three blocks, something nobody else on the Laker roster is capable of. This is a huge reason why Johnson was drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2010 NBA Draft as scouts saw the skills.
The Lakers would be incredibly smart to keep him around for the future despite him not yet being a finished product. If they do, they could bring him back cheap and get a huge reward on their investment down the line. Does the 26-year-old have the mental toughness to show up every night over the course of a long season? So far, he has not shown he can. It’s going to be up to Johnson and help from the Laker organization to realize his full potential.