Luke Walton has been toying with the rotation all season long, thanks in part due to suspensions, injuries, need and because that’s what you do over the course of the first quarter of the season. One thing he seems to have figured out is that Lance Stephenson and his style of play don’t quite mesh with what the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to do.
According to Walton, Stephenson kind of made the decision fairly easy for him.
Luke Walton said it’s due to turnovers Lance Stephenson has found himself out of the rotation. Luke said he tells Born Ready to stay ready.— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 8, 2018
Not much is known about the Lakers’ offensive system in the half-court at this point, as Walton focused primarily on defensive tactics to allow the team to get out and run after stops. What little we do know, however, is that they want to rely on ball movement to force opposing defenses into either bad matchups that can be exploited, or choices between open shooters.
Lance’s playing style is the antithesis to all of that theoretical approach to the game. He stops the ball, takes too long to make decisions and, as Walton points out, hasn’t been particularly efficient with the decisions he does eventually make.
Stephenson’s fit was always awkward, and only really made any sense at the start of the season when he was shooting well. Now that he’s regressed back to how he normally shoots, he’s become an actual hindrance to the way the Lakers want to execute. Because Svi Mykhailiuk doesn’t require a ton of time on the ball to be productive, Walton has leaned on him increasingly of late, and given what was left of Stephenson’s minutes to Michael Beasley, who is also a better fit for what the Lakers want to do.
It’s hard to see a circumstance not forced on the Lakers by injury where Stephenson regains a spot in the rotation given the way the team plays without him on the court. On the season, the Lakers are 1.9 points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents in the 373 minutes when he’s on the court, and 3.2 points better when he’s off. Based on what Walton is saying, the sample size of him off the court is going to keep on growing — a trend that should help the team increase that differential.