Lakers player preview: Is Jalen Hood-Schifino cornerstone material?

Jalen Hood-Schifino, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jalen Hood-Schifino, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Even after advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals in the 2022-2023 season, the Los Angeles Lakers slotted in with the 17th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Some believed the team would look to deal the pick for a veteran piece ready to contribute now.

Following much speculation regarding the front office’s plan for the pick leading up to draft day, the time for the 17th name to be called came and the Lakers still owned the announcement. The decision, however, was no easy one. The troops huddled in the Laker war room had a plethora of options to choose from, including Jamie Jaquez Jr, Cam Whitemore, Kris Murray and Marcus Sasser, to name a few.

But none of those lads received a free Lakers hat that evening, as the club landed on Jalen Hood-Schifino from Indiana University. JHS, for short, is a big guard. At 6’6″, he is taller than most other point guards in the league. At 215 pounds, he is sturdy enough to tangle with some of the stockier wings in the league. His size alone offers him the advantage of positional flexibility, being that running him at the 3 would not even necessarily be maniacal. That statement alone makes him an asset defensively, given the rise of positionless basketball in recent years.

Positive physical traits aside, there is also a lot to like about the 20-year-old’s feel for the game. In Bloomington, he showed a lot of poise running the show. His comprehension of how to effectively utilize his size and strength is magnificent.

The collected vibes he radiated as the primary ball-handler were even further evident as a freshman. Not only did he look ready for the pressures of being a Division 1 starting point guard from day 1, he looked built for them.

But like every other basketball player, his game does not come without flaws. His jumper was off-and-on during college and was mostly off in the Summer League. Hitting shots is crucial in the NBA today, especially in the backcourt. If defenders do not at the least respect his outside shot, his effectiveness could wind up limited in the half-court.

In the full-court, his physicality makes him a driving threat from the moment he grabs a board or receives an outlet. In Summer League, he almost appeared to get sped up at times. This is a natural portion of the configuration to the professional pace.

In college, he was able to get away with some things on account of his physical advantages. In the Summer League, he got his first dose of the uptick in tempo and physicality that come at the ranks of the elite.

His feel in the midrange is another good sign. And while more of his jumpers were misses than makes in his first showing as a Laker, you have to at least admire his confidence to remain aggressive.

The Lakers can be patient with Jalen Hood-Schifino.

The good thing for the Lakers is that they have time to let Hood-Schifino develop. This season, there are no clear paths to playing time for him on the depth chart. At this point, the team is set with D’Lo, Gabe Vincent, and Austin Reaves.

At the off-guard, there are numerous options ahead of him in all 3 of those previously noted names plus Max Christie. On the wing, there are no alternative universes in which LeBron is not in the Lakers starting lineup this season. But beyond him, the team has wing depth in the forms of Jarred Vanderbilt, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, and the ever-versatile Rui Hachimura.

So, while any player should be pursuing minutes, this season should be all about knowledge for Jalen Hood-Schifino. This is a Lakers roster that looks built to contend, and we have always seen reluctance from coaches of contenders when it comes to entrusting rookies.

The two top dogs will surely instill a wealth of tutelage to the youngest active Laker. However, guys like Reaves, D’Lo, and Vincent who have been around the block will also be prime resources for JHS. It is going to take him time to truly adjust to the NBA landscape, an idea that was evident in Las Vegas. The good thing for Jalen Hood-Schifino is that he has a lot of winners in his corner.

The organization will surely be rooting for JHS’s future, but JHS will surely be rooting for his teammates from the sidelines for most of this season.

Barring a breathtaking showing during training camp, he looks firmly implanted as the team’s 3rd string point guard behind D’Lo and Vincent. When you factor in the continued rise of Austin Reaves, it would be more real to paint him as the 4th in the Laker line of floor generals as we prepare for the 2023-2024 season.

However, we all know the magnitude that injuries can have on the game of basketball. If something were to happen to any of those other points (knock on wood), Hood-Schifino needs to be ready to fill whatever void is necessary. This is a next-man-up league, and his minute intake could shift from garbage minutes only to starting lineup from one game to another.

If everything runs smoothly this season for the Lakers, then 2023-2024 will be more tailored towards apprenticeship than full-time position levels for Jalen Hood-Schifino. If his number is called, it is essential that he remain prepared nonetheless.

He has the gifts to give the Lakers organization a lot in the future, and he may need to unravel those at times in the present in order to help his comrades succeed. Here is to hoping that JHS is up to that task.

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