Would Bringing D’Angelo Russell Off the Bench Benefit LA?


In the second preseason game against the Utah Jazz, the entire Lakers’ fandom held their breath as they watched number two overall pick D’Angelo Russell plummet to the floor after recklessly attempting to block a Rudy Gobert dunk. 

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Fans proceeded to exhale when minutes later, the broadcast broke the news that it was merely a “bruised glute” as opposed to what it looked like, a broken right wrist.

Though Russell was available to return to the game, he ended up resting and was held out of practice the following day and the next preseason game.

The question now arises, can the Lakers use Russell’s injury as a blessing in disguise by temporarily moving him into the second unit?

By watching the first two games, it is apparent that the Lakers have multiple players who possess similar skills sets. Brandon Bass mirrors Tarik Black, Robert Upshaw mirrors Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Nick Young are both gun slingers, no matter what Mitch Kupchak says.

In the case of Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, both are most effective when they have the ball in their hands. This was demonstrated by Clarkson throughout his breakout rookie season and by Russell while at Ohio State.

I always have trouble figuring it out early but as the season progresses I kinda figure it out – D’Angelo Russell

One of the concerns with drafting Russell over Jahlil Okafor was that the Lakers were already thought to have the point guard of the future in Clarkson.

At Media Day, Kupchak addressed this by saying that they drafted Russell assuming “they could play together in the same backcourt.

As stated previously, preseason should be taken with a grain of salt, but with three losses already under their belt, and lack of depth at the back up point guard position, the move could actually be warranted.

Russell has admitted on multiple occasions to being a late bloomer, so bringing him off the bench to develop him alongside veterans Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, and youngsters Robert Upshaw and Larry Nance Jr. wouldn’t be the worst thing.

"I always have trouble figuring it out early but as the season progresses I kinda figure it out. In college being a combo guard is tough — knowing when to get guys involved and knowing when to score. And as the season went along I started to figure it out. At this level I feel like it’s going to be the same."

Moving Russell to the second unit allows for more slashing room for Clarkson and fills the two spot with a much needed three point threat — either Lou Williams or Nick Young. Additionally, this could allow Bryant to move back to his normal position and shift another small forward into his spot.

Through three games, it is noticeable that Bryant, and even Julius Randle, are isolation heavy players. While Clarkson can still operate around these two off ball, Russell works best orchestrating a free flowing offense which gives him space to improvise.

Though only three games into the preseason, often times, when Clarkson and Russell play in the same back court, there is obvious discomfort and stagnation because both are used to handling the ball. Having Russell be the leader of the second unit resolves this issue immediately.

While the main concern would be managing Bryant’s minutes, yesterday, at times, it was an after thought that Bryant was even on the floor due to Julius Randle’s ability to score in the paint and Clarkson’s slashing prowess.

Further, even with Russell’s absence, similar to the previous games, Bryant was more of a spot up shooter than the ball dominant shooting guard fans have come to know him as.

Since Russell’s injury, Los Angeles’ starters have seen not only increased minutes, but increased touches, which has led to a drastic improvement in scoring and overall play. The first game the Lakers had no starters in double digits, the following two,  every original starter has reached double digits at least once.

Yesterday was the first time the starting line up looked truly comfortable, jumping out to a quick 10-2 lead, scoring and defending with ease. It was only until the point guard lacking second unit came in that the lead began to crumble.

Though Coach Byron Scott isn’t likely to do this once Russell is healthy, considering the amount of backlash he would get for benching the number two overall pick, last night’s preseason game against Toronto was a clear indicator of what an ideal temporary starting line up could look like.

Considering Russell is fresh off of injury, now is the perfect time to test out this theory. Plus, it’s only preseason.

What do you think of possibly having D’Angelo Russell come off of the bench?

Let us know in the comments below.

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