On Tuesday the Lakers did something that they have not done in four years: trade a player before the trade deadline.
The Lakers’ new front office personnel led by Magic Johnson was able to trade point guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Williams was a popular trade piece that engendered a lot of offers from several teams and dealing him to the Rockets signified the Lakers’ commitment to their younger players especially those in their backcourt.
There was no doubt that Williams was one of the most efficient scorers on the Lakers. At the age of 30, Williams is having a career year in scoring and shooting. He is currently averaging 18.6 points and 38 percent from beyond the arch in only 24 minutes per game.
The Lakers will certainly miss his supernova scoring bursts and offensive threat along with his calm leadership on the bench in the locker room.
The Lakers succeeded in moving Williams because not only did they gain a valuable draft pick, but they would also allow D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson more playing time and growth.
A lot of fans, myself included, pleaded for Luke Walton to play Russell more minutes, especially down the stretch. Russell who is currently averaging besting his rookie season output in scoring (14.2), assists (4.7) and rebounds (3.8), but is only playing around 26 minutes a game and can barely find playtime in last quarter of games.
Much of Russell’s playing time went to Williams because the Lakers needed to make the latter a more valuable and attractive trade piece. With Williams out of the equation, Walton has the freedom to play and utilize his starting point guard more during the game and the fourth quarter.
Russell struggled with inconsistency all season long, but it was not surprising that the lack of minutes and youth added to his up and down performances. Russell’s role and minutes will increase, which may help alleviate some of his inconsistencies. At the end of the day, it is still up to him to perform at a high level.
The Lakers’ reliance on Williams not only affected Russell, but it also affected Jordan Clarkson as well. Clarkson and Williams were a dangerous combination when they both clicked offensively, but when they don’t, their style of play becomes glaringly identical.
Clarkson and Williams played interchangeably between the point guard and shooting guard positions, but in doing so, limited Clarkson’s ability to grow as a playmaker. Clarkson is a relentless attacking guard but still, struggles to create for his teammates.
In his first two years in the NBA, Clarkson, who played mainly as a point guard, showed glimpses of probing the paint and playmaking for his teammates. We’ve seen this season, however, that his assists numbers decrease as his field goals attempt increase.
With Clarkson as likely the main focus on the Lakers’ bench, it will enable him more autonomy to score and distribute for his teammates. He should be the primary ball-handler for the bench unit now moving forward.
Hopefully, he can improve his playmaking abilities with more playing time. It will be interesting to see if Walton decides to pair Clarkson with Jose Calderon, who can move well with the ball and spot up from deep. Walton could also play Clarkson and Russell more during different moments in games.
Williams was a great scorer and leader for the Lakers during his short tenure with the team.
The fans will miss his play just as much as the Lakers, but moving forward they should be optimistic with the increasing chance of growth and player development for the Lakers’ young backcourt players.