The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to a new contract with Stanley Johnson, the team confirmed in a press release on Thursday.
The team did not confirm the length of the deal, but according to multiple reports on Wednesday, the deal is two years, with the second of those being a team option.
Johnson had signed three successive 10-day contracts starting on Christmas Day and running for more than a month into the final week of January before getting a a guaranteed deal:
Forward Stanley Johnson has agreed to a new two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Johnson’s final 10-day contract expires Wednesday, but his contagious defense, energy and play earn him a guaranteed rest of the year.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 26, 2022
The Lakers intend to sign F Stanley Johnson to a two-year deal, including a team option for 2022-2023, sources tell ESPN. Deal expected to be signed on Thursday.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 26, 2022
While the Lakers had valued the flexibility of having an open roster spot, the willingness of Johnson to take a team option in the second year of his deal was reportedly enough to convince the team to lock him up.
Lakers had been discussing some two-for-one trades along the roster margins, but ultimately landed on keeping Johnson in 15th spot, especially because of his willingness to agree on a team option for year, per sources. That keeps some deal-making flexibility for LA this summer.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 26, 2022
Johnson and the Lakers have had a mutually beneficial relationship over the last month. With the Lakers in desperate need of bodies in late December, Johnson signed on a hardship 10-day waiver and showed out right away against Brooklyn. From there, the Lakers have kept him in their rotation as the team’s small-ball center, save for a game against the Kings when Johnson’s hardship 10-day contract had lapsed and he was not yet eligible to sign a traditional one.
For Johnson, the opportunity presented to him by the Lakers has revitalized his career in an unexpected way. The former lottery pick had failed to meet expectations as a small forward, leading to him being out of the league when the Lakers signed him in December. But as a small-ball center, Johnson has excelled in a role that doesn’t require him to be an outside shooter — an area he continues to struggle in — but does still accentuate his remarkable physical gifts.
And the Lakers have used Johnson abundantly during his time in Los Angeles. Since Christmas, Johnson is in the team’s most-used five-man lineup, one that also features Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Avery Bradley and Malik Monk and has a +12.7 net rating in 72 minutes. No other five-man lineup has played more than 43 minutes in that span.
Most importantly, Johnson has excelled alongside the Lakers’ most important players in James and Westbrook, with the trio sporting a net rating of +2 in 127 minutes since Christmas. Only Monk, Bradley and Carmelo Anthony have better net ratings alongside James and Westbrook in that span.
Add it all up and Johnson became too valuable for the Lakers to not keep him for the remainder of the season. While their open roster spot was a valuable commodity over much of the last month, it wasn’t worth losing Johnson in the long run. His skill set has allowed the Lakers to play a small ball style that they have excelled in sans Anthony Davis.
Even with Davis returning, the Lakers, at worst, found a contributing role player in Johnson that can help them this season. And considering the state of the Lakers’ bench for much of the year, that’s more than quite a few other players can say.