Wesley Johnson has never lived up to expectations after being drafted fourth overall in the 2010 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, Tuesday night, he scored 14 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 108-94 win over the Utah Jazz in a preseason game at Staples Center.
Last year in Phoenix, he averaged 13.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game as a starter in 21 games (29.2 minutes per game), but coming off the bench he averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 11.7 minutes. He showed some improvement, but the Suns ultimately let him walk as a free agent.
After signing him, the Laker front office went as far as to say he could be a Michael Cooper-type defender.
“He [Mitch Kupchak] thinks Wesley can develop into a Michael Cooper- or Trevor Ariza-type player” Lakers public relations director John Black told Lakers.com. “Mitch will probably be mad at me for sharing that with you guys publicly. But I think all Laker fans would be very happy if something like that were to happen, as would we.”
At 26 years old, Johnson has an opportunity to still show he’s a good player. “Wes was outstanding” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after Tuesday’s game.
The bench play was outstanding, which is great news after the unit struggled last year and was among the worst in the NBA. They scored 74 points and converted 23 of 40 field goals (57.5%). Jordan Farmar nailed back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 20 points (5-of-7 shooting) and dished out three assists.
Farmar scored 13 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter. Jodie Meeks scored 15 points (5-of-9 shooting), grabbed three rebounds, had three assists, and swiped two steals. Jordan Hill added 10 points and five rebounds. No starter scored more than nine points.
It’s only a preseason game but there were encouraging signs against the Jazz. Laker fans should be excited about the improved bench play, which will only get better when Kobe Bryant returns to the starting lineup.
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter at djroxalot.