Through the first week of the NBA season, if you’ve watched the Lakers you’ve noticed a few things. Julius Randle looks good, Clarkson looks decent, and Kobe looks bad. Now, if you dive deeper into how the Lakers are doing you’ll notice that D’Angelo Russell has not looked good. The Lakers are stunting the growth of Russell and here’s why:
Kobe is taking up floor space that Russell should be using
The addition of Lou Will + Nick Young staying in LA makes the backcourt too crowded
Russell isn’t getting the time to improve
Kobe Bryant’s struggles this year isn’t a surprise. Coming off huge injuries, it will obviously take time for Kobe to get into a rhythm, but the longer it takes, the longer Russell can’t be on the floor. Kobe has averaged 15.8 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game on an atrocious 32% shooting from the field, 20% from three. Kobe needs to start converting into a facilitator otherwise he’s making the whole team worse by shooting such a low percentage.
Lou WIlliams was a big acquisition this offseason. Much like the player Nick Young, Lou Will brings scoring off the bench, and quick scoring at that. Lou Will and Nick Young both are taking time that could be given to Russell. At first when the move was made for Lou Will, it looked smart. It looked like he could come in and the Lakers would have strong guard play. This isn’t the case. Clarkson is a lock in the point guard slot, Kobe is a lock on the wing, and the rest have to share minutes that doesn’t benefit anybody.
D’Angelo Russell is averaging 24 minutes per game, 8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He’s taking 10 shots a game as well. In comparison to other rookies, like Emmanuel Mudiay, Mudiay is averaging 30 minutes per game and 13 attempts. He also is getting 6 assist a game. Now, there’s obviously a difference of team structure and what not, but nonetheless, Mudiay is working through kinks in his game as well, but he’s going to rapidly improve faster than Russell can because he’s getting the time and repetitions. His usage % is at 29 in comparisons to Russell’s 20.
Russell was even benched in the fourth quarter of their game against the Nuggets in favor of Lou Williams. When asked what he can do to stay out there he said,"I have no idea. It’s something that I’m capable of," Russell said. "It’s all about opportunity, taking advantage of your opportunity. But I definitely know I’m capable."
The solution for this? Either you hope Russell is good enough to improve while these other players are getting time and reps, or you need to force Russell into the lineup, for better or worse, in order to help the future. This Lakers team isn’t going anywhere this season. They aren’t a playoff team, so if you want to look at the future and the Lakers truly want to make Russell a franchise guy, he needs the time now. This may be an overreaction, but the Lakers spent a lot on Russell, they need to make sure it pays off.