Frustrations mount when a team has lost 45 of its 56 games. When a team loses at that rate, there are many issues to point to and the Lakers are no different. I have maintained, however, that once it was abundantly clear this team would not win at a level which would match some of the preseason rhetoric issued by those in charge, fans would have been pacified if the young players were showcased while playing a more aesthetically pleasing style.
This, though, has not necessarily been the case. Yes, the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have gotten plenty of burn. Not at the rate which many would like, but none have been buried on the bench either. We can argue about who is starting and/or who is closing — which are worthwhile discussions — but all are playing at least half the game and getting at least enough minutes to show off what they are capable of.
The problem is, they’re just not doing it together as a group. Take, for example, Friday night’s game against the Spurs.
Clarkson/Randle/Russell shared the floor for 4 minutes against the Spurs on Friday.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) February 20, 2016
This is somewhat of an extreme, but not so much so that it comes as too much of a surprise. Below are the total minutes each of these players have played this season as individuals, as separate pairings, and as a trio:
- Jordan Clarkson: 1,747
- Julius Randle: 1,508
- D’Angelo Russell: 1,460
- Clarkson/Randle: 1,077
- Clarkson/Russell: 782
- Randle/Russell: 977
- Clarkson/Randle/Russell: 613
There is context here, but the numbers, in the end, speak to a certain type of failure this season has represented. In the face of so many losses, the Lakers simply have not done a good job of maximizing the floor time of the players who, based on the language of the people who run the team, are supposed to be the future of the team.
And, it warrants repeating: it’s not like the kids aren’t playing. Clarkson leads the team in total minutes, Randle is 3rd, and Russell is 4th. They have seen the floor a fair amount, but have not been able to really get a lot of that time together. Contrast that with a team like the T’Wolves where second year pro Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns have played 1,896 and 1,662 minutes individually, but have shared the floor for 1,512 total minutes. Doing the math, that means for 91% of Towns’ minutes he has been on the floor with Wiggins.
Now, compare that to Russell spending 53% of his total minutes played with Clarkson or spending 42% of his total minutes with Clarkson and Randle as a group. It’s not a comparison at all.
Listen to Byron Scott or Mitch Kupchak talk and they imply this will change soon. Russell will begin starting and, with that status, will also start to close games. This should translate to more minutes with Clarkson and Randle simply by default. There is no timeline on when this will happen, but I’d imagine it happens in the next handful of games. The problem is, based on the numbers above, it probably needed to happen sooner.