Los Angeles Lakers guard Gabe Vincent reportedly has a “legitimate chance” to steal the starting point guard job from D’Angelo Russell in the 2023-24 season.
According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, the Lakers’ starting point guard job will be an “open competition.”
“Given the Lakers’ second-half success with Russell in the starting lineup last season and his superior offensive skill, he makes the most sense as the starter,” Buha wrote. “In theory, Russell starting is more important to him than it would be for Vincent. Russell has started nearly 89 percent of his NBA games (435 of 491), while Vincent has started just 35 percent (68 of 195). The Lakers can also rehabilitate Russell’s trade value by starting him and helping him bounce back to last season’s regular-season production.
“With all that said, this is an open competition and Vincent has a legitimate chance to steal the starting job. He is the better defender than Russell and a more natural off-ball fit as a lower-usage catch-and-shoot threat. Unlike Russell, Vincent’s defensive chops prevent him from being played off the floor in the postseason, as he showed during the [Miami] Heat’s Finals run. At a minimum, Vincent is the early closer, much as Dennis Schröder often was last season, especially in critical matchups that require two-way players.”
Vincent signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Lakers this offseason after beginning his NBA career with the Heat. A former undrafted free agent, Vincent played a major role for Miami in the 2022-23 season, helping the team reach the NBA Finals.
The defensive-minded point guard averaged 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 33.4 percent from beyond the arc for the Heat last season.
Russell is a much better offensive player than Vincent, but he saw his minutes decline against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals last season. The Lakers had a hard time hiding him defensively since Denver had so many scoring threats on the floor at all times.
The former No. 2 overall pick averaged just 6.3 points per game in the Western Conference Finals after putting up 17.4 points per game for the Lakers during the regular season. To make matters worse, Russell had a plus/minus of minus-47 in the Denver series, and he was eventually pulled from the starting lineup as a result.
The Lakers shouldn’t use that one series to judge Russell, as he was an effective player throughout the regular season. The team re-signed him to a two-year deal this offseason, showing that it still values what he brings to the table.
During the 2022-23 season, Russell averaged 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from beyond the arc while playing for the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Still, it seems like Vincent will at least have a chance to earn the starting job in the 2023-24 season, and he could have a big role in games where the team needs his defensive ability at the point guard spot.