What Will the Los Angeles Lakers' Starting Lineup Look Like?
Point Guard: D'Angelo Russell
Entering his ninth NBA season and his second stint with the Lakers after they drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, Russell is coming off a 2022-23 season in which he was dealt to the Lakers in a three-team trade with Minnesota and Utah that allowed him to supplant Russell Westbrook as the primary point guard.
The Lakers went 12-5 in his 17 games, and he re-signed this summer for two years and $38 million despite playing poorly in the playoffs against Denver and losing his spot in the starting rotation in Game 4. Still, his overall body of work was promising as Los Angeles played well down the stretch to make the play-in and the playoffs, and management clearly feels a full season with the Lakers will produce better results.
Russell is a career 17.7 points per game scorer, and he made 41.4% of his 3-pointers with the Lakers last season.
Shooting Guard: Austin Reaves
The upcoming season will be the third in the NBA for this Oklahoma product who has spent the summer playing for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup. Here, opposing coaches tried to expose his defensive shortcomings but he was a key part of coach Steve Kerr's rotation.
Reaves signed a $54 million max extension over the summer after he had a breakout second season. In 2022, he shot 52.9% from the field, 39.8% from 3-point range, and 86.4% from the line to go with 13 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. If he can become a better 3-point shooter and make them at a clip higher than 40%, it will have been a good signing at such a high price tag.
Small Forward: LeBron James
OK, where do we start? Well, the guy has scored more points than anyone in NBA history, and his next point will be his 38,653rd. He averaged 28.9 points per game last season but appeared in only 55 games. James has not appeared in all 82 games since 2017-18 when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This will be his sixth season with the Lakers, and he will be looking to shoot at least 50 percent from the field for the 13th time in the past 15 seasons.
James is on the board at FanDuel Sportsbook at +5000 to win Most Valuable Player for those who believe in dinosaurs and things happening for a fifth time.
Power Forward: Jarred Vanderbilt
The upcoming season will be the sixth in the NBA for this Kentucky product who was part of the multi-team trade that brought Russell to the Lakers from Minnesota, while Vanderbilt came over from the Jazz. The signing of Wood in early September could put some pressure on Vanderbilt to produce more as both a scorer and rebounder. Additionally, Vanderbilt will be sharing minutes with Rui Hachimura, another 2023 acquisition who was brought in as a complimentary frontcourt piece to the two superstars, James and Davis.
Center: Anthony Davis
Davis is on the board at +2900 at FanDuel for Most Valuable Player, and yes, it is a rarity to see one of James' teammates listed with shorter odds. But Davis is projected to be more of a workhouse after he, too, missed multiple games over the past several seasons due to injuries. Davis has never played more than 75 games in a season, and his highest tally in his four seasons with the Lakers was 62 games in 2019-20, the year after he came over from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis averaged 12.5 rebounds per game last season, a career-high, and averaged 25.9 points per game. When he is operating at peak efficiency, he is a top-10 talent in the NBA as evidenced by his eight All-Star appearances.
Who Will Be on the Los Angeles Lakers Bench?
The Lakers had a very good offseason in terms of adding depth to a roster that has been changing constantly during James' time in Los Angeles. The turnover has been partly because of trades and partly because of injuries.
Gabe Vincent was a key component of the Miami Heat team that made it all the way to the NBA Finals as a No. 8 seed. Cam Reddish was let go by Portland after being acquired by the Blazers in the trade that sent Josh Hart to New York.
Hachimura came over from the Wizards in the deal that sent Kyle Kuzma to the nation's capital, and he will be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year if the Lakers have a successful season. He is on the board for this award at FanDuel at +6500.
The addition of Wood makes it eight teams in as many years since he went undrafted out of UNLV. If he ever decides to settle down his act and become an impact player in one place for a number of years, perhaps being teammates with James and Davis will bring an end to his journeyman status. When he was with the Rockets from 2020 through 2022, he was very productive for a very poor team.
Lastly, the biggest question mark is whether the Lakers will get anything of meaning from their first-round draft pick, Jalen Hood-Schifino, who was the Big Ten freshman of the Year for an Indiana Hoosiers team that was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2022.
Who Is the Lakers’ 6th Man?
The Lakers are deep enough to not have what would clearly be defined as a Sixth Man, but Hachimura fits the bill best because he plays the same positions as James and Vanderbilt. Hachimura is now entering his first full season with the Lakers after spending his first three and a half seasons in Washington. The Wizards gave him up for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks, which isn't the greatest return on a player who was taken ninth overall in the 2019 draft following three seasons at Gonzaga.
Hachimura is not renowned for his defense, but when it comes to online sports gambling and trying to pick a player with a price for a particular award, Hachimura is intriguing because he can be a 15-18 point-per-game scorer matched up against opposing backups. Remember, with the Wizards he was a starter and always faced the opposition's starting power forward.
The Japanese-born forward started 105 games for the Wizards during his first two NBA seasons and averaged 13.5 and 13.8 points, then started coming off the bench regularly before Washington dealt him away. Some would say he qualifies as a reclamation project at this point of his career, but the Lakers clearly believe in him because they re-signed him this summer as a free agent.
One important thing to remember when weighing the pros and cons of whether Hachimura is wager-worthy: Voters like to reward players from teams that have overachieved. If there is a choice between Player A and Player B and they have nearly identical stats, the vote is going to go to the player whose team outperformed expectations the most. In the case of the Lakers, they are coming off a 43-39 season that left them seventh in the West. If they become a 50-win team, someone will get rewarded.
Get to Know the Los Angeles Lakers Front Office
Who Is the Lakers' Head Coach?
Darvin Ham played for six NBA teams and spent time in Spain and the Philippines before moving into the coaching ranks. His first stop was in the D-League and then in the pros with the Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks, where he was a protégé of Mike Budenholzer. Ham was part of the coaching staff that helped lead the Bucks to the 2021 NBA title. He reportedly has a strained relationship with Nuggets coach Michael Malone. Ham is on the board at FanDuel at +1600 for Coach of the Year.
Who Is the Lakers’ General Manager?
Rob Pelinka was one of the top agents in the NBA, representing the likes of Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Carlos Boozer, Buddy Hield, and Kevin Durant before ditching that business in 2017 when he was offered the top executive job with the Lakers in a power shakeup that took out Magic Johnson, Jim Buss, and Mitch Kupchak as the top decision makers. Pelinka played college basketball for the University of Michigan, where he was a member of the "Fab Five" team that included Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard.
Los Angeles Lakers FAQs
Officially, the Lakers are owned by the Buss Family Trust, which was formed by former owner Jerry Bus, who died in 2013 and ceded control of the franchise to his son, Jim, and his daughter, Jeanie.
Tim Harris is the team president. He previously served as the team's chief operating officer and has been with the franchise since 1996.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, George Mikan, Karl Malone and Steve Nash are among the many famous players who have worn the purple and gold.
The projected starters for the 2023-24 season are D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis.
LeBron James led the team in scoring in 2022 with an average of 29.8 points per game last season.
Russell, Reaves, James, Vanderbilt, and Davis should be starters if offseason projections hold true, but Christian Wood or Rui Hachimura could beat out Vanderbilt in training camp.