A tumultuous season for the Los Angeles Lakers presents a puzzle for head coach Frank Vogel. Juggling superstar talent, rotating injuries and a mostly new cast of role players means one thing: a constantly changing lineup as the team figures out who they are.
While certain players have benefitted from the sporadic changes, for Wayne Ellington it has meant significantly less playing time. Vogel recently made it clear that the choice to limit Ellington’s minutes was a tactical one.
“We’ve gotten more two-way production out of Talen [Horton-Tucker], Austin [Reaves] and Stanley [Johnson] is the simple answer,” Vogel said.
“I like what Wayne [Ellington] brings to the table in terms of being in the right spot defensively and executing our schemes and obviously, he’s one of our better shooters,” Vogel said. “But the totality of what the other guys are bringing to the table on the defensive side of the ball and their ability to attack and play make. Those guys earned those minutes.”
The experiment has been paying off recently. When the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t winning games, they’re at least coming within a possession or two. Of course this is easier when you have LeBron James putting up 50+ points against the Golden State Warriors, but who you put around James (and Anthony Davis when he returns) can make all the difference.
All three players Vogel mentioned played at least a quarter in the Lakers’ win over the Warriors Saturday night.
Ellington’s role, on the other hand, has significantly decreased since December. For the first half of the season, he played double digits almost every night for the Lakers.
He’s only played in four games since the start of February, racking up a combined 20 points over 48 minutes. The few times Ellington has been on the floor has resulted in jacked-up 3-pointers, a few defensive rebounds and the occasional steal.
Vogel likes combination of Monk and Reaves
While Ellington has seen his minutes decrease, the opposite can be said for Malik Monk and Austin Reaves, who have both entered the starting lineup and played well together.
“I like the combination of Malik Monk and Austin Reaves out there together,” Vogel said after the win over the Warriors. “That’s something that we had seen more in second units throughout the season but it’s been a combination that our analytics teams said has really produced. Those guys have some of our best on-off, plus-minus stats, those types of things and we decided a couple games ago to look at it in the starting lineup and even though we hadn’t won yet, those guys are performing at a high level and were a plus-22 together tonight.
“Going into a game against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson saying we were gonna put Malik and Austin on them gave me a little bit of anxiety, I’m gonna be honest. But those guys really, really competed and executed our plan and we were able to get the W.”
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