The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled this season for many different reasons but despite all the bad that has occurred, the team still finds itself squarely in the playoff hunt. This is with questionable decision making when it comes to its rotations in games, inconsistent play from a few key players, and with their second-best player having missed the last month due to injury. One bright spot for this Lakers team has been the emergence of forward Stanley Johnson, whom the team signed using the NBA hardship exception. After signing with Los Angeles and making his debut on Christmas Day against the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson has showed his value and really put his game to the grind. The Lakers clearly noticed the work that Johnson put in and have since signed him to a few ten-day contracts, in order to allow for flexibility while also retaining the young player on their roster.
Johnson is from Orange County, California and grew up both a Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan. He has seized the most of his opportunity thus far with the Lakers and doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon. The expectation is that the Lakers will sign him for the remainder of the season once he goes through the maximum allowed ten-day contracts. He brings the ability to guard against opposing teams’ best players well while also being able to shoot the three pointer well. He has been a key piece in the Lakers ability to play smaller lineups due to him now playing as the Lakers center at times.
His time with the team has come during a rough stretch as the team can’t seem to string many wins together and gain any real momentum. This team has come undone with injuries, been hit hard by COVID, and dealt with many media rumors circling the team including about their head coach being on the hot seat. While these aren’t ideal circumstances for a young player on a ten-day contract to be dealing with, Johnson has taken them in stride and is using everything to make the most of this time.
He has displayed the ability to have quick hands-on defense which translates to steals and has been a welcome member to the team with how the Lakers have struggled defensively this season. He seems to be gaining the trust of the Lakers players as every game goes on and has been reliable for them down the stretch of games. While Anthony Davis is out with his injury, the Lakers will rely on Johnson to help carry the load. Even after Davis returns, Johnson looks to be a key part of this Lakers team as the year goes on.
This is his seventh season in the NBA after being taken in the lottery by the Detroit Pistons back in 2015 and he seems to finally have found a home. He hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations that come from being a lottery pick, but the fact remains that he is still only 25-years-old. Recently, Johnson talked about how Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri and other members of the Toronto front office told him that he was bad at basketball and how he had to overcome that as a professional athlete. Well even if Johnson is indeed bad at basketball as he was told, the Lakers will gladly take him on their squad.