Can Xavier Henry Be Key LA Lakers Bench Contributor This Season?

Richard LeContributor IIIOctober 22, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 10:  Xavier Henry #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against John Salmons #5 of the Sacramento Kings during their preseason game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on October 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sacramento won 104-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Despite the logjam of guards vying for playing time, Xavier Henry proved that he can be a viable offensive option as a part of the Los Angeles Lakers' second unit.

His versatile offense is the primary reason Xavier should see playing time as a backup shooting guard. Other than Nick Young, no other guard on the roster can score like he can.

While Jordan Farmar may be the better passer and an equally effective shooter, he isn't the athlete or the penetrating threat that Henry is. Not only does Henry drive into the lane, he also has the ability to draw fouls.

In six preseason games this year, Henry has attempted 35 shots from the charity stripe. Making 77.0 percent of those free throws, Henry proves that he can be a credible threat with his penetration.

Although a sample size of nine total three-point attempts during the preseason up to this point is too little to determine whether or not Henry can be a consistent outside shooter, the fact that he made 55.6 percent of those shots is positive sign. 

He may not be the defensive presence that Jodie Meeks is known to be, but his athleticism and quickness show that he has the potential to develop into a serviceable defender. Averaging fewer than a steal a game, Henry has to be more disruptive in the passing lanes in order to really supplant Meeks as the defensive stalwart of the second unit. 

Totalling only three assists during the preseason, one of the biggest knocks on Henry's game must be his facilitating abilities. While his role is to score the basketball, he will need to learn how to get his teammates involved.

His ability to penetrate and draw attention in the paint is only half as dangerous without the ability to kick the ball to an open teammate. 

Despite these knocks on his game, he isn't the only one with flaws in the second unit.

While Meeks is a better defender, he doesn't have the offensive versatility that Henry has. While Farmar and Steve Blake are very dependable passers and three-point shooters, they don't have the athleticism and penetration skills that Henry has. 

What separates Henry from the pack is his ability to create shots for himself.

Blake and Farmar are dependable shooters and can run an offense. However, they don't have the athleticism and the scoring prowess to really create a shot in a one-on-one situation. Meeks doesn't have this ability either. 

While they can all move without the ball and hit an open jumper, only Henry truly has the potential to be a consistent one-on-one threat.

This ability can be extremely helpful if the offense gets stagnant and the defense stays home on shooters. While it isn't prudent to play one-on-one basketball every possession, this skill alone should give Henry some valuable playing time on a second unit that doesn't have another player who can create off the dribble. 

Perhaps Henry's biggest competition for playing time is Nick Young. As versatile on offense as Henry, Young has a proven track record as a high-volume scorer throughout his career.

Just as long and athletic as Henry, Young has played proven minutes as a starter and should see minutes at the starting small forward position as well as the shooting guard position.

This could pose a problem for Henry if Mike D'Antoni uses Young extensively. It could allow Meeks, Blake and Farmar to fill the more niche roles on the roster.

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If Henry can't separate himself from Young, he may have to find a way to beat out one of the niche players. While it is unreasonable for him to become a better facilitator than either of the two backup point guards, it isn't preposterous to expect him to work toward matching Meeks on the defensive end. 

While Meeks' defensive contributions don't really show up on the stat sheet, he is a very effective defender who alters passes, disrupts shots and restricts dribble penetration. Henry has to become just as active on defense as well as providing his versatile offense without much of a drop-off.

Henry has all of the tools to be the most improved player in the NBA this season.

With career averages of fewer than five points and two rebounds per game, Henry will definitely be given the opportunity to top these numbers in a system that really needs his skills. 

Whether the Lakers choose to run-and-gun or focus on Pau Gasol in the post, there is always room for a player who can stretch the floor, run in transition, attack the hole and create for himself.