Stanley Johnson is the Swiss army knife of the Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have had an offensive problem all season. There are plenty of excuses to list as to why this happened, but it’s still odd that a team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk currently ranks. 24th in offensive rating on the season. Fortunately, the attack seems to be reversing lately as the team has the Offensive Ranking 4th in the last four games, this rating being partly attributed to the promising play of a certain Stanley Johnson.
Now, of course, it also helps to have flamethrower LeBron James who (now) is also busting his ass on both sides of the floor. I’m not going to sit here and act like this offensive resurgence is all down to Stanley Johnson. Hell, even Westbrook has been a much better and more effective contributor to that end lately compared to his season as a whole.
But Johnson brings an attacking package that most of the names listed above don’t. Now I say the most because LeBron can do everything Johnson brings to the team (and more). But Westbrook, Anthony, Monk and Davis can’t do some of the things I talk about below that really make Stanley Johnson a little Swiss Army knife to deploy for the Lakers.
With Frank Vogel’s team-wide change to play the younger and more energetic players on the team, Johnson received an increased total of minutes which allows him to show off his offensive skills even more. He averaged 21.8 minutes per game all season, but in this recent four-game streak where the Lakers have a top-five offense, Johnson is averaging 28.4 minutes per game. In those minutes, he’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 assists per game, with assists ranking only below LeBron and Westbrook for the team’s highest ratings.
Those assists mostly come from Johnson catching the ball on the perimeter and driving, showing vision that only pales in comparison to the two stars above him. You can see most of his assists in the video below, most of them showing he has great two-man play with LeBron as well as an ability to get the ball in the perfect spot for Dwight Howard, something that will translate even better to Anthony Davis and his much better athleticism once he returns.
— Donny McHenry (@donny_mchenry) March 26, 2022
His 10.3 points per game over the last four is a big step up from the 6.4 mark he has on the season as a whole, as Johnson showed a floaty, pull-up game in the middle of the ground that the defenses struggled to counter. The defense’s inability to stop Johnson’s scoring from that middle area of the floor most likely stems from the passing ability he has in that same area, as Johnson can arguably be the second-best decider in the team.
Below you can see those mid-range floats, pull-ups and workouts to the rim that look so easy to him.
Johnson also shows how he can be a great partner for LeBron with his cut, as he’s been found numerous times lately as well as throughout the season on his edge dashes.
Earlier, I made a bit of a bold statement, insinuating that Johnson’s offensive skills are more useful than those of Westbrook, Carmelo, Monk and anyone not named LeBron. This is due to his ability to play between the 3-point line and the rim, something these other players simply don’t have.
Sure, Carmelo can isolate and score in the midrange with the best of the best in the league, but he doesn’t have the passing vision that Stanley Johnson has. Westbrook is at his best when he lives at the rim, but without a floater or perimeter shooter, he’s struggled to succeed on this team of players who have little perimeter to shoot each other. And as for Monk, while he has a great ability to reach the edge and score from deep, he’s nowhere near showing the passes and points that Johnson can do in midfield.
Johnson’s exclusive and unique skill set will surely help the Lakers the rest of the regular season as well as the playoffs (no matter how long or how long). But more than that, he seems like a player who can really help LeBron and Davis while playing alongside them, especially when you add his defensive abilities which are among the best on the team.
Because of this, Johnson will almost certainly play a big role in the rest of this season, but next year, along with the Lakers, have a team option to secure his contract for the 2022-23 season.