Lakers D’Angelo Russell Should be Closing Out Games For LA

Most Lakers fans know by now that Byron Scott has been benching D’Angelo Russell at the end of games for Lou Williams, in an effort to win.

Most people are upset (and rightly so) because this is costing Russell valuable experience that could help him develop his NBA game. The thinking goes, Russell needs more experience in these situations to be good enough to play in these situations, a vicious circle.

Looking at the numbers, both basic and advanced, provides a problem with the thought that Williams is an improvement over Russell.

Focusing on the last two games for the Los Angeles Lakers, there’s a good argument that Russell would have provided more in the closing minutes.

Look at the Lakers 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Russell was 6-of-9 for 16 points, including two of three from behind the arc, before getting benched by Scott so that Williams could enter the game. It’s worth noting that Williams ended the game 2-of-9. Taking the same number of shots, Russell was significantly more efficient. No advanced numbers needed.

Take the rest of their stat lines into account and Russell was still the better player. Russell added four rebounds and three steals to his efficient shooting while Williams contributed only one of each.

If you’re still not convinced that Russell’s better shooting, rebounding and defense was legitimate, there are plenty of more advanced statistics to support it. But honestly, it’s hard to believe that there’s anyone other than Scott who still thinks going with Williams was the right call, especially when the Lakers needed to make a stand on defense.

In that game alone, it is very difficult to find a number that says Williams was playing better, and defensive rating is certainly not on his side.

Advanced Box Score Stats
StartersTS%eFG%3PArORB%DRB%TRB%AST%STL%BLK%TOV%ORtgDRtg
D’Angelo Russell.810.778.3335.612.69.60.06.10.09.214390
Lou Williams.430.222.4440.04.02.320.11.90.00.0102102
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2015.

Russell was clearly shooting better, playing better defense, having a better game on the glass, and the offense was flowing better with him.

The next game against the New York Knicks consisted of more of this. The Lakers lost this one 99-95 and in the closing minutes it was Williams on the court instead of Russell.

Was it the right decision? Of course not! While Russell did not play quite as well as in the previous game, he still outperformed Williams.

Russell’s line consisted of three for seven form the field with five rebounds, three assist, and three steals. Williams game was also three baskets but on 12 shots with only two rebounds, one steal, and five assists. Sure, Williams has been a better passer than Russell over these games but that is likely because of Scott’s decision to play him more minutes, so it should not be the reason he is benched.

Again in this game the advanced numbers make a good case for Russell to be closing out, although not as strong as previously.

Advanced Box Score Stats
StartersTS%eFG%3PArORB%DRB%TRB%AST%STL%BLK%TOV%ORtgDRtg
D’Angelo Russell.403.429.0006.311.58.616.45.30.021.28398
Lou Williams.338.292.5004.25.14.638.82.40.07.085107
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2015.

This is further proof that if Scott wants efficiency or better defense he should be playing the rookie over the veteran.

Scott has been saying publicly that he is putting winning over the development of the Lakers youth. The problem is that the Lakers youth present the best path to winning.

Russell should be finishing games, whether for his development or to give the team a better chance to win. It’s obvious to almost everyone, so when will Byron Scott realize it?

What do you think about Byron Scott’s decision to bench D’Angelo Russell? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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