On December 7th against the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott made a lineup change, benching the team's lottery picks D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle and inserting Lou Williams and Larry Nance, Jr. into the starting lineup. The Lakers have gone 4-10 with their new starters for a winning percentage of 28.5%, better than their 17.6% winning percentage (3-17 record) before the change.
After the Lakers' Saturday practice Scott reiterated to Bill Oram of the OC Register that he was unlikely to change the lineup just yet, saying the rotation adjustment "was a really good move because it's benefited a number of guys."
The move to the bench saw Randle's playing time drop from 28.4 minutes per game to 24.5, and after an initial drop Russell's has actually marginally increased, from 27.7 to 27.8. However, the change has led to a rise in usage rate from the young duo, with Randle (21.3 to 25.1) and Russell (21.1 to 25.6) both allowed to use more possessions as they play less minutes alongside Kobe Bryant.
The two players who replaced them have also benefited. Lou Williams went from averaging 12.9 points per game on 37.1% shooting as the primary initiator of the bench's offense to 14.5 on 43.7% shooting as an off guard with the starters, and Larry Nance, Jr. saw an increase minutes, points, rebounds, and field goal attempts and percentage since becoming a starter.
It has been pretty easy to observe that Russell and Randle were less than thrilled about becoming bench players, but Scott did praise the two for how they handled the move to Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com:
"I think both of those guys have played well off the bench, and eventually they'll be back in the starting lineup as well," Scott said. "Like I've said earlier, they've handled that extremely well. They've handled it like mature professionals should handle it."
He has also been satisfied with their "energy," something Scott was critical of earlier this season:
Byron says that Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell "have been playing with high energy" since moving to the bench.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 2, 2016
Scott takes a lot of heat for how he handles the young players' minutes and talks about them in the media, so it is encouraging to see him praising Russell and Randle this time, even if it is for a how they have handled a move they and most fans are not very happy about.
All stats per NBA.com