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Lakers season preview: Small forwards

How are the Lakers looking at small forward? Here's what we said about Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.

Jeff Gross

The Los Angeles Lakers small forward core has remained largely unchanged from last season. Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson are both returning to the purple and gold and should see the majority of minutes at the position. Here's what we had to say about the duo:


"This kind of efficiency, along with everything else he brings to the table, makes for a solid player. That's an important distinction to make. This isn't burn-out Michael Beasley. This isn't Evan "Google me because you have no idea where I am at this point of my career" Turner. Wesley Johnson was hoisted from the top of prospect mountain but resurrected himself as a serviceable basketball player.

Consider the fact he's only 27 with 6731 minutes played throughout his career. Consider the fact he was burdened by expectations and chaos with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Consider the fact the Lakers were his third team in as many seasons last year. Many MANY things must go right for a player to reach his ceiling. Some of those things just didn't happen for Wesley Johnson, but he's stuck with it. He's quietly found his place in the NBA, and the Lakers need him about as much as he needs them." - Wesley Johnson is finding his way

"He may not have the same volume of production, but he should still be a solid player for the Lakers. He's very good at finishing around the rim, plays within himself, and won't tank possessions away with isolation attempts. A year similar to his first with the Lakers is enough to call it a success for both Wesley and the purple and gold, and that's probably where his season is headed.

If Wesley can maintain the play he showed last season it means the Lakers found a minimum-level player they can continue to incorporate in their plans. The Lakers are short on young talent, and Wesley is still just 27. Even if he plays slightly above the career-best bar he set last season, though, it's unlikely to be significant enough of an impact to push the Lakers that far up the standings." - Wesley Johnson portfolio


"As Henry works his way toward his second season with the Lakers, he'll have to earn his role on the team again. Minutes might be hard to come by in a Lakers wing-rotation featuring Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, along with the possibility of Jordan Clarkson playing minutes at shooting guard.

Xavier Henry could go unnoticed because of his potentially-limited role inside the team's rotation, but he still has plenty of value. He has the potential to be an offensive spark plug and defensive weapon even though he isn't likely to make the leap to scorching scorer or lockdown defender. What's important is he can become valuable long-term role player with the Lakers. He showed flashes of it last season, and if he stays healthy, should only build upward again." - Xavier Henry is a valuable role player

"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.

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." - Xavier Henry's portfolio

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