The Los Angeles Lakers made sweeping changes at the 2023 trade deadline and went from one of the most disappointing teams in the league to a team that made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. As a result, the Lakers decided to run it back with the same core for the 2023-24 season.
In addition to bringing back the same core players from a year ago, the Lakers also made subtle improvements where needed that should hopefully be the difference between getting swept in the Western Conference Finals and making it to the NBA Finals.
All that being said, the Lakers still seemed to learn their lesson from previous mistakes and maintained roster flexibility with the moves that were made. Los Angeles does not feel stuck like in previous years, which is a great feeling.
Before the Lakers make more sweeping roster changes, though, the team is going to have to make lineup changes. Head coach Darvin Ham is far away from announcing what the Lakers’ starting five is going to be but the writing is on the wall. LA’s starting five to begin the season is predictable and features one player who doesn’t deserve to start.
D’Angelo Russell doesn’t deserve to start for the Lakers (but probably will).
It did not even seem likely that D’Angelo Russell would return to the Lakers after the awful showing he had against the Denver Nuggets. But then Russell and his agents realized that there was not much of a market for him and that the Lakers could pay him the most money because they owned his Bird Rights.
The Lakers also realized that it was better to re-sign Russell and have the ability to move him in the future rather than letting him walk in free agency, effectively losing the cap space created with the Bird Rights. Thus, the two sides (perhaps reluctantly) decided on a new two-year deal with a player option after the first season.
It may not seem like Russell is bound to start in LA with all this in mind but it would be legitimately shocking if the team gave Gabe Vincent the starting job out of the gate (even if he deserves it). The Lakers were reportedly worried about “losing” Russell in the NBA Playoffs last season if they bench Russell. Just imagine how much the team would lose him if he was benched to start the year.
For that reason, it seems much more likely that the Lake Show will give Russell the starting job to begin the season even though Vincent is the more deserving player and fits better next to Christian Wood, who may end up starting himself.