Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham recently offered an update on the team’s final spot in the starting five alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.
Darvin Ham confirms the team’s starting backcourt is D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves. The third frontcourt spot and fifth spot in the starting lineup next to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Reaves and Russell is up for grabs in training camp, according to Ham.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) September 28, 2023
Lakers forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura stand out as two candidates who could earn the third frontcourt spot in the team’s starting lineup.
Vanderbilt was selected with the No. 41 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after one season of playing college basketball at the University of Kentucky and has played for four teams — the Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets — across his five seasons in the NBA.
The 24-year-old started the 2022-23 regular season as a member of the Jazz but was traded to the Lakers in February 2023 in a three-team trade that also involved the Timberwolves.
Vanderbilt averaged 7.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 26 appearances with the Lakers during the 2022-23 regular season (24 starts).
Meanwhile, Hachimura was selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after a three-season stint playing college basketball at Gonzaga University and has played for two teams — the Washington Wizards and Lakers — across his four seasons in the NBA.
The 25-year-old forward was a member of the Wizards for the first three-plus seasons of his pro career before he was dealt to the Lakers in January of 2023 in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks.
Hachimura averaged 9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game in 33 appearances with the Lakers during the 2022-23 regular season (nine starts). But the forward struggled to shoot the ball efficiently from behind the three-point arc, seeing as how he converted just 29.6 percent of his three-point attempts.
Hachimura rectified his three-point woes during the 2022-23 regular season in the 2023 playoffs. He shot the ball with fantastic accuracy from deep, as he converted more than 52.0 percent of his threes in two of Los Angeles’ three playoff series (against the Memphis Grizzlies in round one and the Golden State Warriors in round two).
Only time will tell who will earn the final spot in the Lakers’ starting five. But Lakers fans shouldn’t be surprised if either Hachimura or Vanderbilt earn that spot.