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Why the Los Angeles Lakers Need Xavier Henry to Make the Leap in 2013-14

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Why the Los Angeles Lakers Need Xavier Henry to Make the Leap in 2013-14
Noah Graham/Getty Images

With the return of Kobe Bryant rapidly approaching, the clock is ticking on Xavier Henry to take that next step for the Los Angeles Lakers

With Bryant joining Henry, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and eventually Steve Nash as well in the back court, the Lakers will soon have a log jam of wing players. 

Playing time for a couple of these players will inevitably get cut, and even, eliminated altogether. However, it's up to Henry to ensure that he isn't one of them.

At 6'6", with a wingspan of nearly seven feet, Henry is an explosive player that is capable of putting up points in bunches. Aside from Young, there isn't a player on the Lakers' second unit that can score in the variety of ways Henry can.

With an ability and willingness to attack the rim, Henry is one of the few players on the Lakers that can create his own shot whenever he wants it. He's also boasting an improved three-point shot so far this year, already taking more threes (22) than he ever has in a season, while knocking them down at a 42.9 percent clip.

Oh, by the way, he's also capable of doing things like this:

So what's the knock on Henry? He has the whole package of size, skill and athleticism and has shown tons of flashes that made him a lottery pick in 2010.

However, that's all they have been. The reason why he isn't even a lock to get minutes when Kobe returns despite such upside and potential is because of his inconsistencies.

Along with some nagging injuries, it's the inconsistent play that have made many call him a draft bust and it's the inconsistent play that led him to join the Lakers in the first place. 

But it's the flashes of greatness that make him so tantalizing. Take a look at the video below of his highlights from the Lakers opening night win over the Clippers.

Attacking the basket, beating defenders off the dribble while also hitting shots from both long and mid-rangeHenry simply took the game over. 

He followed that performance up with 14 points against Golden State and then added 18 points against Atlanta two games later. When he is on, he is a great player and at just 22 years old, common sense says he should only be getting better.

"He's a good example of guys that need to get to a certain point in their life where now it clicks," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said in an article written by Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. "And when it clicks, it's pretty good."

The problem for Henry will be how much D'Antoni uses him with reliable veterans already on board that have proven to be much more consistent over their careers.

However, over the early part of this season Henry has shown to be the type of player that can thrive in D'Antoni's system if given the right opportunities. What he needs more than anything is a definitive role and a chance to take that next step in his career. 

Meanwhile, what the Lakers need is an explosive player off the bench that can be relied on to do multiple things and is capable of taking a game over on any given night.

The Clippers game showed that Henry could be that player, but it's up to him to take that leap and do it more than just in spurts.

If that happens, he could be that driving force that turns the Lakers from a fringe playoff team into a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

 

Andrew Tornetta is a new writer for Bleacher Report. You can find his B/R archive and follow him on Twitter @AndrewTornetta.

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