For fans, it is easy to look at a player’s history in the league and quickly decide if he will be of little help to their team.
Former lottery pick Xavier Henry, signed on with the team back in September and understandably was seen as another training camp invite after his first three seasons in the league being categorized as “underwhelming”.
The 22-year old shooting guard has turned some heads in early game action, notably in the first preseason game versus the Golden State Warriors, where Henry scored 29 points. As an encore performance, the Belgium born player scored 15 points versus the Denver Nuggets the following night.
After five games, Henry is averaging 13.6 points a game, on 43% shooting from the field and 55% from beyond the arc. With his shooting touch and athleticism, the 22-year old has shown that he could be something more than just another camp body and has forced his way into the Lakers roster situation.
As it stands, the Lakers roster is at 16 players following the latest roster casualty, Darius Johnson-Odom, who was cut Wednesday evening. While a team can carry 15 players on their roster, the likeliest of scenarios is the roster being trimmed down to 14 before opening night.
With the Lakers roster currently guard heavy, it would not be shocking to see Henry cut, but at the same it would not come as a surprise to see him make the squad. It could very well come down to a decision between Henry and Marcus Landry for the final spot.
While both have a good chance to start the season with the D-Fenders if they are in fact released, it will be a tough decision with the emergence of Henry and Mike D’Antoni’s familiarity with Landry.
What makes the potential roster spot for Henry so intriguing is the effect it could have on other players, namely Jodie Meeks, who could become expendable.
While nothing is definite, Henry has the potential to exceed the production Meeks has given in his short time in Los Angeles. With his athleticism, shooting, and ability to get to the rim, he could be more of a fit than Meeks, who is considered a catch-and-shoot player, while Henry can be seen as the more dynamic of the two.
Henry, selected 12th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010, has dealt with high expectations since his days in high school, where he was considered one of the top shooting guards in the country. After leaving the University of Kansas after one season, Henry failed to live up to the expectations of a lottery pick, averaging 4.5 points a game in three seasons. Although as we have seen in the past with D’Antoni’s free flowing system, it could be just the situation Henry needs to improve his production on the offensive end.
Up to this point, Henry has made a pretty good argument for himself to earn the final roster spot despite playing through a wrist injury. With three games left in the pre-season, he has a chance to strengthen that argument.
While I do not expect Henry to be in the running for sixth man of the year, he could be yet another diamond in the rough role player that can quality depth to the bench, something the Lakers have not had in quite some time.
With the Lakers headed towards a big off-season with ample cap space, it is important they find young players that will stay on the roster past this season.
While we can only hope he is not cut because of a rosters numbers game, Henry has done more than enough to earn his spot with the purple and gold.