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Breaking Down the Lakers' Best and Worst Fits in Byron Scott's System

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Breaking Down the Lakers' Best and Worst Fits in Byron Scott's System
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Byron Scott's hiring brings changes to the Lakers. Who stands to gain from them?

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott has already made it clear how he will run his team.

First and foremost comes a fundamental defensive identity and toughness.

"Defensive philosophy has to be constant", Scott told Lakers.com's beat reporter Mike Trudell. "Defensively, we’ll start to work from day one, because that’s something we have to get better at right away, and we will."

Scott vows to hold players accountable on the defensive end and enforce a policy that will prioritize locating the ball and getting back on defense to limit transition opportunities.

On offense, Scott will install the same scheme he has taught at previous stops. 

As he told Trudell, "I want a mixture of some of what I’ve done in the past, which is the Princeton offense, along with traditional NBA sets."

With Scott's coaching philosophies in mind, let's take a look at who may derive the greatest—and least—benefit from playing in his system.

 

Best Fit—Wesley Johnson

Wesley Johnson has been frustrating home fans since he entered the league, and his first year with the Lakers was no exception.

Watching him play, it's clear to see the tremendous upside just waiting to be realized. With his length, athleticism and fluidity moving around the court, it's not hard to envision Johnson as a two-way force on the wing along the lines of a Paul George.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Wes Johnson can take the next step in his development under Scott.

That idealistic projection is the reason he was drafted fourth overall in 2010—six picks ahead of George.

Coach Scott remains optimistic about Johnson and is excited to work with him this season.

"I think the kid is so talented; I'm really hoping it can be a break out year for him," Scott said when asked about Johnson starting on the wing next to Kobe Bryant. "I've always been intrigued with Wesley."

For what it's worth, Johnson did have the best season of his career in 2014. He shot the ball more accurately than ever before—including a healthy 37 percent clip from downtown—and posted career bests in PER and win shares.

Johnson's game fits the Princeton offense well. 

His size and athleticism will allow him to take advantage of easy looks around the basket off of constant motion and cutting. For his career, Johnson has been a strong finisher near the hoop, converting over 66 percent of his attempts within three feet of the rim, per Basketball-Reference.com.

If Johnson's newfound three-point accuracy is no fluke, he will be a threat from the outside as well as in drive-and-kick scenarios. Johnson shot a respectable 37.8 percent on catch-and-shoot three-point field-goal tries last season, per NBA.com, and finished second on the team in total catch-and-shoot points.

Johnson showed flashes of brilliance last season, like in this great performance against the Detroit Pistons. Playing in Coach Scott's system could bring more of those performances out of him.

Defensively, Johnson has the potential to shine in Scott's system.

The biggest reason to be hopeful is that with L.A.'s depth in the frontcourt, Johnson can move back to the wing full time, instead of toiling as a stretch power forward as he did for large chunks of last year under Mike D'Antoni.

According to 82games.com, Johnson held opposing small forwards to a reasonable 14.4 PER, while enemy power forwards tore him apart, racking up a 21.4 PER against him.

Johnson will still draw the toughest perimeter assignment on a nightly basis, but he has the physical tools to get the job done and stand out in Coach Scott's scheme.

 

Worst Fit—Xavier Henry

Another 2010 lottery-pick reclamation project, Xavier Henry was well on his way to fulfilling his promise last season before injuries derailed his campaign.

Henry is back with the Lakers for the upcoming season and will compete with Johnson for a starting job on the wing beside Bryant.

In his extended Q&A with Trudell, Scott mentioned that he "thought Xavier was excellent until he got hurt last year," but had nothing else to say about Henry when talking about his group of wing players.

Interestingly, in that same section, Scott talked about the possibility of playing Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin together, meaning that there may be fewer minutes to go around for the swingmen—and Henry may end up drawing the short straw.

The Princeton offense doesn't play to Henry's strengths.

D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images
Unless Henry can improve his passing and off-ball skills, he may lose minutes to guys who fit better into Scott's plans.

Henry loves having the ball in his hands so he can put his head down and attack the rim, but he doesn't provide much value when playing off the ball, as he will most of the time in Coach Scott's system.

Finishing near the hoop has been a trouble spot for Henry, who shot a disappointing 55 percent from within three feet each of the past two seasons, per Basketball-Reference.com.

He has also never been a good jump-shooter. In four NBA seasons, Henry has attempted just 126 threes total and has connected on only 32.5 percent of them.

Henry's playmaking needs to improve as well in a system that requires a lot of passing. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Gerald Green, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were the only perimeter players in the league who played as many minutes as Henry, while posting a usage rate as high as Henry and an assist rate as low as Henry in 2014.

On defense, Henry struggles at times. He has good lateral quickness and initial effort, but he doesn't always rotate correctly and can get caught ball-watching.

He lacks Johnson's size, so if he is in there with Bryant, the Lakers are vulnerable to attacks from bigger wings.

Unless he adapts his game to fit Coach Scott's philosophies, Henry may be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

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