Does Wesley Johnson Have a Future with the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers signed a number of new players to one-year auditions this past season, and none received more starter minutes than Wesley Johnson.

The result was intriguing, if not somewhat of a mixed bag.

That’s due in part to the role he was often asked to fill—that of a power forward. At 6’7” and 205 pounds, Johnson, who usually swings between shooting guard and small forward, doesn’t have the size to handle post assignments against most traditional big men.

Yet that’s what exactly what Mike D’Antoni was interested in—looking for Johnson to replicate an experiment from the past. For those who remember the coach’s glory days with the Phoenix Suns, Shawn “The Matrix” Marion gave fits to larger opposing power forwards through speed and athleticism.

In a Los Angeles Times article by Eric Pincus at the start of the season, D’Antoni explained his rationale:

What coaches have to coach Shawn Marion? That was the experience I had and I told Wesley and that's a lofty goal, no doubt about it, because Shawn is obviously one of the better players in the league—but [Johnson] has a lot of those qualities. He can do that. He can disrupt at the four.

There were certainly times when Johnson's speed and leaping ability caused mismatches.

Not everybody was impressed with the concept, however. In late February, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times relayed Pau Gasol’s misgivings when asked how the slender Johnson would fare against beefy Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies: "Good luck, right? Let's see what happens [Wednesday] if Wes continues to start or if we actually try to match up and utilize our size because we do have guys with size that can do well."

Trying to live up to improbable expectations is something Johnson has plenty of experience with. He was selected a...

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