One way to amass some young talent despite the roster/salary cap limitations of the Lakers: recruit players with something to prove (a love for the franchise doesn’t hurt, either).
By signing 2010 No. 4 overall pick Wesley Johnson, who underachieved given that draft slot in two years with Minnesota and one in Phoenix, they definitely got the “something to prove” part.
“I think this is probably one of the most important seasons of my life,” he relayed. Johnson also happens to be a purple and gold fan.
“This is a dream come true,” said Johnson, who grew up loving the Lakers thanks to a certain player that shared his family name. “Since I was younger at eight or nine years old, I always wanted to be a Laker.”
Johnson has struggled through portions of his early career on two young teams with few veterans from whom to learn. He said he’s eager to learn from Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and feels he’s developed his game considerably of late.
“I think my game catapulted this whole summer,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym non stop working on everything, as far as conditioning, ball-handling, shooting, agility and everything. I’ve matured a whole lot.”
Last season in Phoenix, Johnson saw some good minutes in March and April, producing the following numbers:
March: 30 minutes; 13.2 points; 3.5 rebounds; 1.2 steals; 41.5% FG’s; 34.7% 3′s
April: 27 minutes; 12.9 points; 3.1 rebounds; 0.1 steals; 46.2$ FG’s; 29.3% 3′s
Johnson’s hopeful that playing in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system will play to his strengths as a long, 6-7 athlete who likes getting up and down in transition. L.A. would surely like to see a rise in those shooting numbers, which given his stroke, should rise with teammates that draw double teams consistently – something he couldn’t take for granted in Minnesota or Phoenix.
“Wesley is a young, athletic player who runs the floor well and is an excellent defender,” said Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. “He’s a developing player who we think could become a good NBA player for years to come. He’s also a great kid and we’re happy to add him to our team.”