The Los Angeles Lakers may be eliminated from the playoffs but that doesn’t mean that they can’t still benefit from the games left on their schedule. Head Coach Luke Walton is using the home stretch as an opportunity to tinker with different lineups, and one move that may stick is using D’Angelo Russell as a shooting guard rather than point guard.
In their last contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Russell actually started on the wing for the Lakers thanks to Nick Young falling ill and proceeded to score a career-high 40 points. Given the unquestionable success of changing Russell’s role, Walton appears to be inclined to continue the experiment, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
“We’re still trying to evaluate and see some things,” Coach Luke Walton said. “With the starting group, I’d prefer to watch Jordan run the traditional point spot and D’Angelo to get out on the wing. … The perfect world is them being interchangeable. For now I want to see what D’Angelo does as an off-guard, I want to see what Jordan does as a point guard.”
It has been a twisting, turning road for both Russell and Clarkson to get to this point. As a rookie in the 2014-2015 season, Clarkson was considered to be the Lakers’ point guard of the future, but Russell’s arrival the following year largely shifted him over to shooting guard.
This season, Clarkson’s role changed yet again as Walton opted to utilize him as a scorer off the bench. With the season lost, Walton began experimenting with flipping their roles, with Russell playing off the bench and Clarkson starting, and now the two are playing alongside each other once again.
While the sample size is certainly small, if the Russell-at-shooting-guard experiment is successful, it’s possible that Walton could make that his primary position moving forward.