The Lakers will try to do something that they have not accomplished in almost four years: win 20 games before the All-Star break. Currently sitting at (19-38), the Lakers will try to reach that mark with a win against the (17-39) Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Lakers are (1-1) against the Suns this season, but they have yet to play them on the road. Although both teams are struggling, Wednesday’s matchup could prove to have some important lottery implications toward the end of the season. The Suns are the second worst team in the NBA, and not that far behind them are the Lakers with the third worst record. The Lakers would need to be in the bottom-three in the lottery for them to keep their pick this year.
Like the Lakers, the Suns are a young developing team with promising players. However, the youth on the Suns’ roster are playing more minutes than that on the Lakers. The disparity in minutes between Devin Booker and D’Angelo Russell is a noticeable difference. Booker, a second-year guard, is averaging 34.6 minutes per game. In comparison, Russell is only averaging 26.5 minutes per game.
It is no surprise to see that Booker is averaging a career high 21.1 points per game, which puts him second on the team in second behind Eric Bledsoe at 21.5 points.
Last night’s game against the Sacramento Kings raised more questions about Walton’s rotations, more importantly, was his handling of Russell in the fourth quarter. Russell sat out the last 12 minutes of the game, and this isn’t the first time either. Russell has sat out three out of the past four games in the fourth quarter, albeit two of those were blowouts. Currently, Russell is ranked near the bottom on the Lakers in minutes played in the fourth quarter. Conversely, Booker is ranked near the top on the Suns in minutes played in fourth at 8.2 minutes per game.
D'Angelo Russell is averaging six minutes per game in fourth quarters, which ranks 10th on the Lakers (9th if you remove Huertas)
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) February 15, 2017
Luke Walton’s egalitarian coaching style is ironically leaving Russell as the odd man out searching for minutes in the fourth quarter. Wednesday’s game against the Suns will be the last game before the All-Star break. They won’t play again until February 24. Hopefully, with that in mind, Walton can find a way to play Russell more minutes especially during crunch time.