Incumbent Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott is already preaching defence but has one major issue; the current lack of defensive minded players on his roster.
If the Lakers are going to put up any sort of resistance defensively, it’s going to come from Wesley Johnson. On opening night, the suggested line-up by many has included Nick Young as the starting small forward which is a recipe for disaster.
Not only will Scott want to limit the time Kobe Bryant and Young spend on the court together stagnating the offence and putting up their sometimes questionable shots, having Young in the starting line-up also takes away the main weapon of last season’s second-best offensive bench in the NBA.
Johnson can be the stopper of this starting lineup as he should have been last season.
Mike D’Antoni wanted to play small ball in his attempt to run opposition teams of the court, which resulted in Johnson playing the unnatural position of power forward. Often undersized, Johnson wasn’t able to use his speed and length as effectively as he could when defending at the three. With Bryant and Steve Nash his possible backcourt partners, Johnson can embrace the role of defensive specialist while contributing offensively when the opportunities arise.
Johnson can score so won’t be a deadweight when the Lakers hold the ball, but even last season scoring points wasn’t an issue. The inability to stop teams has plagued the Lakers for years and starting Johnson, along with the big bodies of Julius Randle and Jordan Hill protecting the rim, should result in an improvement in the 2014-15 season.
Johnson isn’t going to be a candidate for the All-NBA Defensive First Team, but he certainly is when it comes to the All-Lakers variety. There aren’t many players on the roster with the defensive ability or the will to do the dirty work that Johnson does.
Scott has talked the talk early on regarding defense, but will he walk the walk and actively improve it? The first step in Scott’s long stroll to defensive relevancy should start with Wesley Johnson being on the court come tip-off on the opening night.