D’Angelo Russell just came back from an injured sore left knee and had been out for weeks. Not too long ago, L.A. was a spotlight team and winning much more games than most thought they would. They were thriving in the playoff picture for several days. We were seeing a lot of grit from the young Lakers, and a team that was desperate to win every night.
But the spotlight has been taken from them lately, as they’ve seemingly lost their identity and swagger. Some people have been having questions on if D'Angelo Russell is a key component to the team; or if Russell is the real deal for the Lakers. Many even think that Lou Williams could lead this team at the PG position. But the fact is, the Lakers need their star and captain if the team wants to get back to that winning style again. D’Angelo Russell is still just 20 years old and has increased in nearly every statistical category this season.
Against the Bulls, the Lakers record before the injury was 7-7 and they were in the playoff picture. D'Angelo helped the team picked up great quality wins over playoff contender teams such as the Warriors, Rockets, Hawks, and have helped beat the teams that they’re supposed to beat.
71% of those 7 losses was against teams that are in the playoff picture now. After Russell’s injury, the Lakers just haven’t been the same (even when he’s returned on a minutes restriction). During that 10 game stretch teams have been humiliating the Lakers, showing them no respect when they step on the court.
Against the Rockets, they lost by 39 points (134-95). Since D'Angelo Russell has been gone, the purple and gold are giving up an average of 110.3 points per game (27th), and they rank last and opposing shooting percentage (48%). During this stretch, the Lakers have been falling apart since the injured occurred it caused Lou Williams to start some games, that took a big piece off the bench and leaves the bench depth little.
Russell, 20, was averaging 16.1 points and 4.8 assists per game before tweaking his knee in a game at San Antonio last month. His numbers are not that glorifying yet, but when he’s on the court, the Lakers get better. That comes from him giving guys better opportunities and spacing the floor. When he is on the court, the teams +/- gets better and falls to -5.0 when he sits. When he’s on the court the team FG % at 47.0 when he’s off it at 43.8%.
The Lakers commit +3 more turnovers when Russell is off the court, probably because he controls the ball better than anybody on the team and brings the most out of his teammates. When D'Angelo is on the court, the offensive rating goes up to 109.4 (highest for the team). When he’s off the court the OFFRTG goes down dramatically to 99.4. The teams’ EFG% is at 49.5, but when Russell gets on the court, it’s higher than anybody on the team at 53.3.
Lastly, the 20-year-old star impacts the game when he’s on the court. He brings his tenacity, and energy to help complete the team. D'Angelo Russell is a future star in this league and is the captain of this team, whether Laker fans will admit it or not. L.A. will not thrive very well if he isn’t in the starting lineup. They’ve lacked a floor general for awhile at the PG position and he has the potential to be a charismatic leader for them later down the road, as their young core grows.
The waiting will continue for Russell, not for his injury…but for his overall progression. Even while he continues to grow and learn, D'Angelo is the cornerstone of this team. This latest 8 game losing streak proves that the Lakers just aren’t the same team without him at his best.