Sports Out West

Lakers: Xavier Henry is showing his worth this preseason

Noah Graham/Getty Images

The third-year guard of the University of Kansas has been a pleasant addition to the Lakers roster this offseason to say the least.

In six games this preseason, Xavier Henry has been a very productive scorer off the bench averaging 12.3 points in 20.8 minutes per game. This includes a 29 point game in the preseason opener on Oct. 5 against the Golden State Warriors which put him on the map for a possible roster spot and he followed that game up with the next three of the five games scoring in double digits.

After his 29 point outburst, the 22 year old made some very telling statements that displayed his comfort with the Lakers organization that appeared to set the tone for his consistent production so far this preseason.

“I knew it would come back around with me working hard,” Henry said after the Oct.5 preseason opener. “I found a team that I can play with that guys are unselfish and found a coach that believes in me. When you have those two things you can do anything.” 

What Henry has shown this preseason is a knack for being aggressive when he is on the court by using his ability to get to the rim with ease that also helps him get to the free throw line, and his decent shooting ability from mid-range and beyond the arc.

Henry as a scoring punch off the bench may be what the Lakers need with Nick Young likely  headed as the team’s starting small forward or if  Kobe Bryant miss any time as the starting shooting guard. With Young in the starting lineup he can possible step in off the bench as the sixth man with his scoring ability.

 At this moment with 16 players on the roster he appears that he is a  lock for one of the Lakers final opening day roster spot with what he has done so far in the preseason. In head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s system he is striving in the role in that same role as a scorer of the bench with an aggressive mentality to get to the rim, which a little reminiscent of what Leandro Barbosa did with Phoenix Suns minus some quickness.

Barbosa strived in that role and provided those Suns’ teams with another scorer  in a fast-paced offense. Henry can similarly fit that bill with his ability to get to the rim with his quick first step and unlike Barbosa he also has the ability to create space for an outside shots.

Henry is a young player that has shown he has plenty of talent and potential to get better. What the Lakers must do is keep him on their roster and place him in an role off the bench using his scoring ability and allow him to learn from guards veterans such as Bryant, Steve NashJodie Meeks and Steve Blake.

His only critiques at this stage in his career is his shot selection, which is something that can always improve, and his ability to stay healthy, which he has battled through various injuries throughout his short NBA career and this preseason has been dealing with a sprain in his right non-shooting hand.

After being selected as the 12th overall pick in 2010 NBA draft he struggled to get consistent playing time due his persistent inability to stay healthy and produce while on the floor. His inconsistency lead him to being traded in January of 2012 to then New Orleans Hornets as part of a three-team deal that sent Marreese Speights to Memphis Grizzlies and two future second round picks to Philadelphia 76ers and in March of 2012 he was assigned to the Iowa Energy in the NBA D-League.

In 50 games for the Pelicans last season, Henry averaged 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and a career-high .410 field goal percentage in 12.5 minutes per game. For his NBA career he has started 18 games with two of his starts coming last season.

What he has done this preseason is take advantage of his opportunity with the Lakers as has shown his potential to become a great player, so if Henry can stay healthy and continue to produce the way he has he will have a significant role off the bench with this team.

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/Getty Images

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.