This season has been nothing short of a calamity for the Los Angeles Lakers, but fans can find solace in the fact that the team’s youngsters have been playing stellar basketball in the latter part of the season, proving that they’re capable of navigating the ship in the post-Kobe Bryant seas.
Here are the numbers of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson in the month of March:
Russell: 23.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds per game, 47% FG, 43% 3PT FG.
Randle: 16.4 points, 1.4 assists, 11 rebounds per game, 50% FG, 20% 3PT FG.
Clarkson: 19.5 points, 2.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds per game, 44% FG, 42% 3PT FG.
In last night’s 107-98 win over the Orlando Magic all three players scored 20+ points, the first time that’s happened since the trios been assembled. Each player is beginning to carve out their niche, and it looks as if these three are primed to successfully succeed the Black Mamba.
Since the All-Star break, D’Angelo Russell is third in scoring amongst rookies playing at least 25 minutes a night with 19.4 points per game, and he’s second in three-point field goal percentage at 47.4% with that same minute qualification latched on. Lastly, Russell is 3rd on Offensive Rating at 106.8 amongst rooks logging at least 25 minutes a night since the break. He’s first in assist percentage over Emmanuel Mudiay at 26.1% since the ASB (Mudiay is at 26.0%), and his post-ASB 60.4 TS% ranks him in at fourth amongst first-year players.
And if you peel back the calendars even further, Russell is still at the summit in majority of the aforementioned statistical categories. I theorize that Russell’s recent stretch of brilliant play can be accredited to the All-Star break.
Byron Scott had spewed out a lot of head-scratching verbiage regarding Russell prior to the break, but one thing that he did do that I thought was important prior to the league’s week-long hiatus was name Russell a starter for the remainder of the season. If Russell did indeed have any qualms, he was able to go into the break knowing he’d come back and finally be able to steer the ship.
He was able to kick back and relax in Toronto with his fellow rookies and his buddy Clarkson, a duo that has been harmonizing since Russell was selected by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft last June.
According to NBA.com/stats, the Russell and Clarkson pairing has yielded positive offensive results for the Lakers, but horrid defensive ones as well. In 180 minutes together since the break, the duo has an Offensive Rating of 106.6, but a Defensive Rating 117.8.
Anyone who watches the Lakers knows these two need major improvements on the defensive end, especially Clarkson who has troubles operating through and around screens, and often gets lulled to sleep on that side of the ball. Clarkson has the quickness and athletic ability to round himself into a serviceable defender, but his instincts and discipline need some fortification before he becomes a factor on that end.
I’d be interested to see how Clarkson would look in a more stable defensive scheme, but that may be addressed if the Lakers choose to axe Scott this offseason. But while Clarkson has his defensive misgivings, he’s been an offensive dynamo since the New Year and his production has been magnificent as of late.
Again amongst sophomores playing at least 25 minutes a night since the All-Star Break, Clarkson is third in scoring at 18.8 points per game behind only whom you may ask? Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, the first two guys selected in the draft in which Clarkson was chosen with the 46th overall pick.
If you run that same data for the entire season, Clarkson comes in at 2nd amongst second-year players in scoring at 15.9 points per game, again trailing only Wiggins’ 20.7 points a night.