Name: Xavier Henry
Season: 5th season (2nd with Lakers)
Role: Backup small forward.
The Good: When healthy, Henry thrived on the bench for the Lakers last season, and an improved roster will only help matters. He shot nearly 10 percent better off the bench than when he started, and his three-point efficiency improved by 20 percent all the same. Next to Nick Young and Jeremy Lin, Henry will help anchor an athletic Laker bench, sporting his improved handle from last season, and his slashing ability will be better for it. Picture Jeff Withey nodding solemnly.
Lakers season preview
Lakers season preview
The Bad: Staying healthy has never been Henry's calling card, and this season probably won't be any different. As Drew detailed some weeks back, Henry could be limited in training camp because of a surgically repaired wrist, and this comes after he missed 39 games because of the same wrist and preceding knee trouble. Assuming the injurybug continues biting, the Lakers could find themselves without Henry's versatile playmaking, taking a noticeable chunk out of their perimeter rotation.
The Could-Be: Assuming Henry stays healthy for 70-plus games for the first time in his career, the Lakers could again sport one of the NBA's best benches. Last season, Lakers reserves combined for 42.3 points per game, and this came with Henry missing considerable time, and Jeremy Lin not being there at all. At his best, Henry can score in bunches, take a rebound coast-to-coast, and make plays. Like any Laker, a clean bill of health is the biggest variable.
The Hope-Not: If Henry misses considerable time, the Lakers would be down a playmaker, and that could be especially problematic consider how thin they are in the wings. The Lakers aren't overwhelmed with elite talent, as Henry's minimum-level contract implies, but everyone is capable of excelling in their respective roles, and Henry is no different. Here's to hoping Henry can exceed 50 games played for the first time in his young career.
The Likely: Henry will miss time, probably earlier in the season. That being said, when he's healthy, his athleticism, ball-handling and nose for the rim will help Kobe Bryant temper his minutes and Nick Young avoid overcompensating as a creator. Henry is similar to Lamar Odom in that he gets in where he fits in, whether it's scoring, passing, rebounding, or defending. Last season, he had 21 double-digit scoring games, nine games with at least five rebounds, and 14 games of at least five free-throw attempts, per Basketball Reference. He's an all-around player who can carve his niche in various ways.
What It Means: The Lakers will again trot out one of the NBA's best benches. While Lin and Young will rightfully earn the acclaim, Henry will be the glue that helps hold it together. Depending on his health, and ultimately performance, Henry can earn himself long-term trust after returning on a minimum-deal. As a former lottery pick, Henry's talent has never been in question. What the Lakers must see is how often he can put it all together.