For whatever reason, since the Los Angeles Lakers won the lottery and could draft Lonzo Ball, the analysis of what might happen next has come back to whether the team still believes in D’Angelo Russell as a cornerstone of the franchise moving forward.
“It would make all the basketball sense in the world to take Lonzo Ball;” Aldridge writes of the Lakers’ upcoming draft.“While the Lakers haven’t given up on D’Angelo Russell, his NBA future looks more off the ball than on it, and Ball’s outstanding and willing passing eye is going to be hard to pass up.”
Aldridge saying the Lakers still have faith in Russell’s game should ease concerns that they might look to move him because they’re about to draft someone at his position.
Turns out, depth is important.
To Aldridge’s second point, Russell has actually faired better at the shooting guard spot than as the lead creator. Here are his splits, via 82games.com.
As the chart indicates, he’s played more minutes as the point guard, as he should have. Russell was, far and away, the best point guard on the roster. That might change next season, if the Lakers draft Ball.
Technically speaking Russell is best at the small forward. But Luke Walton won’t play him there enough because he obviously wants to tank. (kidding, obviously)
But as you can see, Russell’s player efficiency rating (PER) and effective field goal percentage (eFG%) are both higher when he plays off the ball, as well as the number of free throws he attempts per game.
Oddly enough, his rebounds go down as the shooting guard, but that might have to do with whoever else was on the court with him at those times.
Russell shot considerably better on catch-and-shoot possessions versus when shooting off the dribble. Off the pass, his eFG% was above 55 percent. Off the dribble, that rate fell to 43. His ability to shoot off the bounce can obviously improve, but as of yet, the numbers say Russell is a considerably better scorer with the help of another creator on the court.
Based on that information, playing alongside Ball could really elevate Russell’s game, which flies in the face of the narrative that somehow the two wouldn’t mix.
Add to that combination Jordan Clarkson being utilized as the scoring guard off the bench, well, turns out depth is a good thing.
Shooting stats via NBA.com.