D'Angelo Russell has been on a tear since returning to the starting lineup. The Los Angeles Lakers' rookie point guard has averaged 21.8 points, 5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and a scorching 55.3 percent from behind the arc since re-entering the starting lineup six games ago against the Chicago Bulls. Russell even dropped a career-high 39 points against the Brooklyn Nets.
This success has led many to ask why Russell wasn't starting sooner, but if Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott had it to do over again he would make the same decision. Scott told reporters before the Lakers' Friday night game against the Atlanta Hawks that Russell's bench stint better prepared Russell for the starting role and helped him "grow up," according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News.
As many have noted, this is playing the results over the process a bit. Did Russell's time on the bench prepare him to play well? Or is it simply Russell gaining more experience from having more games in the NBA under his belt?Russell himself credited "opportunity" multiple times during his walk-off interview following his explosion against the Brooklyn Nets, and he's not wrong.
Russell is playing more minutes since entering the starting lineup (32.8 vs. 27.6 on the season), but his usage rate has not risen significantly (23.6 on the season vs. 24.8 since returning to the starting lineup). What that means is that the five minutes extra minutes per game are much more responsible for Russell's improved box score stats than him getting force fed significantly more possessions since entering the starting lineup.
We will never know definitively what is responsible for Russell's breakout, but whatever the cause, he has certainly taken advantage of his opportunity.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.