Lakers Trending Up And Down: 2015-16 NBA Season, Week 2
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After the second week of the NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers are still sputtering, with their lone win coming against the hapless Brooklyn Nets. The dawn of the season was supposed to be kind to Los Angeles, with no matchups against teams that are projected to be playoff squads, but here we are. Still, the Lakers have a nearly completely remade roster that features a number of young players, so growing pains are to be expected and two of the five losses have been close ones that they likely close out once the new Lakers get their feet under them.

Let’s take a look at who is trending up and down with the record sitting at 1-5.

D’Angelo Russell: No, Russell may not have made the kind of impact that some of his rookie contemporaries have, but over the past few games, we have seen signs of life. He has been more aggressive shooting the mid-range jumper coming off the pick and roll (which appears to be his best shot), and is looking more comfortable with the pace of the game. We saw a bit of fire from D’Angelo during his matchup with Emmanuel Mudiay, and the Lakers are starting to figure out how to best utilize his skills. Russell had a career-high six assists against Denver, and then followed up that performance by putting up 16 points against the Nets.

While rookies like Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Mudiay, and Jahlil Okafor have performed well, check out their usage percentage compared to Russell:

Mudiay: 28.2
Okafor: 27.5
Towns: 25.0
Porzingis:23.6
Russell: 18.8

Of course the argument can (and should) be made that Russell needs to be more aggressive, but the fact remains that up to this point the Lakers haven’t leaned on him the way most of the other tops picks have been. There is still plenty of room to grow, and I think we will see a nice jump from D’Angelo Russell around the All-Star break. Baby steps folks, baby steps.

Jordan Clarkson: Heading into the season, there were question marks surrounding Jordan Clarkson and whether he was simply putting up stats on a bad team or if he is the real deal. While six games isn’t a great sample size, it would appear that the latter is correct, as Clarkson is leading the Lakers in points with 16.5 per game while shooting a sizzling 45.5 percent from downtown. While it’s unlikely that Clarkson shoots this well from deep all season, his ability to slither into the lane and finish at the rim has been a tremendous asset for the Lakers and is absolutely sustainable.

Clarkson went off for 30 points against Denver and has looked comfortable both on and off the ball, and to his credit Coach Byron Scott is starting to put him in more pick and roll actions. It appears that the Lakers found themselves a heck of a player with the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Metta World Peace: World Peace has only played in two games this season, but since being inserted into the rotation, he has provided an infectious defensive energy that seems to improve the play of the entire team. At 35, Metta can’t be expected to play major minutes, but so far he has still found ways to make an impact. We have seen several instances of Metta tutoring the young players in between plays, which is exactly what earned him a spot on LA’s rebuilding roster. So far, so good for the return of World Peace.

Larry Nance Jr: Like World Peace, Nance was only called into action two games ago, but he has already made a solid impact. His numbers won’t pop out at you (4.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in 16.5 minutes), but his ability to move his feet defensively combined with his athleticism has helped to shore up the defense of the Lakers second unit. Nance Jr. has also apparently been learning the finer points of sideline celebrations from Robert Sacre:

Kobe Bryant: Kobe ends up on the Trending Down list for the second week in a row, and it’s becoming apparent that even his reduced minutes of 29 per game may be too much. He still has flashes of brilliance and can hit the fade-away jumper from time to time, but he has only shot over 40 percent from the field once thus far, and is currently averaging a painful 31.5 percent. Kobe’s inefficient shooting screams that his usage rate of 28.2 is way too high if the Lakers want to win games. Meanwhile, he is struggling to stick with his man defensively, and the team is giving up points in bunches. It was fun watching Kobe get the star treatment at Madison Square Garden, but it’s not longer appropriate to expect him to shoot the team to wins. With his recent hints of retirement, it would appear that we may very well be watching the Kobe Bryant’s farewell season. Let’s hope he can get his shooting on track soon.

Brandon Bass/Ryan Kelly/Marcelo Huertas: The Bass/Kelly frontcourt lasted just four games before being replaced by Tarik Black and Larry Nance, and Marcelo Huertas was phased out of the lineup in order to make way for Metta World Peace. Given the bench squad’s inability to get stops these moves aren’t surprising, but Huertas was a bit of a disappointment since he was so impressive during preseason. It may be some time before we see these three take the floor again.

Julius Randle: This may not be a fair placement, as Randle has well-exceeded all expectations thus far, but we are starting to see the holes in his game. Randle’s jumper is still a work in progress, and while he lit up Dirk Nowitzki, Kenneth Faried, and Thad Young he also struggled to deal with longer defenders like Willie Cauley-Stein and Kristaps Porzingis, shooting just 25 percent against them. It’s not all bad though, as these weaknesses simply mean that Randle has the chance to be a truly special player once he gets his jumper down and learns to finish over length. The sky’s the limit, but it’s going to take time to get there.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Funny how Russell is trending up with slight improvement and Randle trending down with struggles against taller players. Yet Russell is also struggling on defense while shooting poorly with little to no assist. I’m glad he was a little more aggressive. But were going to need more. He maybe trending up but its barley a notch up. He’s still playing at d-league level.

  • Funny how Russell is trending up with slight improvement and Randle trending down with struggles against taller players. Yet Russell is also struggling on defense while shooting poorly with little to no assist. I’m glad he was a little more aggressive. But were going to need more. He maybe trending up but its barley a notch up. He’s still playing at d-league level.

  • Struggling with defense? Thought he played very well on defense against both Knicks and Nets. Had 3 steals in each game.

  • Struggling with defense? Thought he played very well on defense against both Knicks and Nets. Had 3 steals in each game.

  • Pretty fair list. Randle struggled against length for sure. He will figure it out, but he will go against another long defender tonight in Bosh!

  • Pretty fair list. Randle struggled against length for sure. He will figure it out, but he will go against another long defender tonight in Bosh!

  • Randle needs to be more aggressive offensively. The way he played against the mavs is the way I want to see him play each and every game!

  • Randle needs to be more aggressive offensively. The way he played against the mavs is the way I want to see him play each and every game!

  • Teams are scouting him well. Packing the paint. He needs to make that 17 footer to open things up. They could also use him more in the high pick and roll with Russell to draw his man out.

  • Teams are scouting him well. Packing the paint. He needs to make that 17 footer to open things up. They could also use him more in the high pick and roll with Russell to draw his man out.

  • I told you he would be inconsistent this year. He’s close though if his jumper is looking good in practice as you have mentioned.

  • I told you he would be inconsistent this year. He’s close though if his jumper is looking good in practice as you have mentioned.

  • I thought he almost gave away the Nets game at the end due to bad defense. I was happy when BS subbed him out. That leak out layup by Joe Johnson was totally on him.

  • I thought he almost gave away the Nets game at the end due to bad defense. I was happy when BS subbed him out. That leak out layup by Joe Johnson was totally on him.

  • steals don’t ever tell the whole story every basketball fan should know that.

  • steals don’t ever tell the whole story every basketball fan should know that.

  • That play was his fault for sure. But overall I have been pleased with his defense. Struggles to get around screens a bit but I think we might have to live with that a little based on his quickness.

  • That play was his fault for sure. But overall I have been pleased with his defense. Struggles to get around screens a bit but I think we might have to live with that a little based on his quickness.

  • I think it was three things….Byron Scott not playing him last year. Kobe returning to the lineup and Metta WP joining the team. Young wouldn’t even respect a young guy trying to take his spot. He respects veterans getting on about playing and he knows that Byron will sit him on the bench if he doesn’t produce.

  • I think it has to do with whats up this season last season theres no motivation and moral is down when so many injuries happen. So he sorta has a purpose again to play. Plus with the talent on the bench he could easily of been replaced and rode the bench. So he has to play well or he won’t get those minutes IMO.

  • He’s benefited tremendously with the return presence of Kobe and the new presence of MWP. In my opinion, he’s the type of player that needs established players in a locker room to keep him focused.

  • He did get married this offseason. It probably helped with his maturity and professionalism. Whatever it is he definitely has better focus and is playing within himself.

  • nick young isnt doing too bad.
    i like swaggyP but i also like him now that hes more serious about things.
    i just wish when people tried to dunk on Nick,
    he would try to block them if not just foul them.
    who cares! i wont hold it against you if you foul out.
    plus you dont let noone put you on a poster.
    cmon swaggyP!

  • he cant be letting dudes dunk on him though…..
    thats gotta stop before it gets worse!

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