When the Los Angeles Lakers moved Lou Williams to Houston at the trade deadline, the assumption was always that it would mean more fourth quarter minutes for D’Angelo Russell. Lakers head coach Luke Walton confirmed as much on Friday before the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, noting that Williams’ absence would mean more minutes in the final period for both Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Crunch-time minutes haven’t exactly been a problem for the latter player. Clarkson actually leads the Lakers with an average of 9.1 minutes per fourth quarter, but Williams ranked second with nine (tied with rookie forward Brandon Ingram).
Russell ranks much lower, averaging 6.1 minutes per fourth quarter, tied for seventh on the team with rookie center Ivica Zubac. When Russell has been out there, he hasn’t exactly acquitted himself well.
Russell is shooting 35.2 percent from the floor in fourth quarters, and 25.5 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers have been outscored by 7.8 points per 100 possessions with Russell on the floor in the fourth, which ranks ninth on the team.
Those numbers aren’t really the point, though. If the Lakers want Russell to develop, they have to give him some crunch time burn when he’s not cold from sitting on the bench for extended minutes after subbing out in the third. It sounds like Williams being gone will allow that to happen.