The 2023-2024 Los Angeles Lakers roster will look quite a bit different than the roster that closed the 2022-2023 season. With seven players returning from that team and seven newcomers joining the fold, it will take some time for this group to build chemistry together.
Out are Mo Bamba, Malik Beasley, Troy Brown Jr, Wenyen Gabriel, Shaquille Harrison, Dennis Schroder, Tristan Thompson and Lonnie Walker IV. In are Jaxson Hayes, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Maxwell Lewis, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Gabe Vincent, and Christian Wood. Returning are Max Christie, Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, and Jarred Vanderbilt.
With a solid blend of familiar and fresh faces, the front office has compiled a quality roster that should have the components of a championship contender. In order to maximize their potential, each player will need to play to his individual strengths and continuously work on improving their weaknesses.
From a broader outlook, each player will need to intertwine their individual strengths and weaknesses for the greater good of the collective unit. If they can all buy in and work together to repeatedly improve their weaknesses and correct their mistakes, the sky is the limit as to what this team could accomplish in 2023-2024.
All these things being said, it will take some time to truly identify the pros and cons of this roster. When sifting through the careers of each player and estimating how this team will come together as one, there are a few areas that stand out as potential strengths and weaknesses of the current Lakers team as we rapidly approach training camp.
Lakers strength No. 1: Depth
Depth has become a staple of the alpha teams across the league in recent years. While too much depth can be a bit of a hassle for a head coach to manage, it is a hassle that any coach would prefer to tackle as opposed to not having enough of it. Fortunately for Darvin Ham, this team has a ton of it.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and that is never going to change. However, those two cannot win a title alone. Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Christian Wood should all be categorized under the “high-level support piece” column. Gabe Vincent, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Taurean Prince may not be the most exciting names, but any team would quickly snatch them up if provided the opportunity.
Max Christie, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes are each highly intriguing young guns, and having them at the end of the bench is an absolute luxury. Even the inbound rookies Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis could probably earn some run in other situations, and are quality options under the “break-in-case-of-emergency” column. This team is legit 12 deep, and we have not even had a chance to see what the draftees can cobble together as professionals.
Lakers weakness No. 1: Interior beef
During the 2019-2020 championship season, Dwight Howard (and to a lesser degree JaVale McGee) was counted on to save Anthony Davis from tussling with the Joel Embiids and Nikola Jokics of the world.
While Howard would have almost 100% chosen to re-join the squad over returning to his current team in Taiwan, the team elected to bring in Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood to shore up its frontcourt depth. Those two are obviously quality big-man options, but neither of them weighs over 220 pounds.
That being said, the team is going to have to rely heavily once again on Anthony Davis to hold his own down low. Rui Hachimura and LeBron will do what they can to assist AD, Hayes, and Wood in the trenches, but neither of them is large enough to be counted on consistently at the 5.
Lakers strength No. 2: Scoring
If all goes according to plan this season, the Lakers should run away with the scoring title amongst all NBA teams.
Davis and James should once again lead the charge in the scoring department, but look past them and you will find numerous other fellas who could lead the team in scoring on any given night: Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Christian Wood, Rui Hachimura. There are other guys who can put the ball in the bucket (most notably Gabe Vincent), but those 6 alone should make up a majority of the scoring load for this team.
Lakers weakness No. 2: Rebounding
This one goes hand-in-hand with the idea that the team is lacking in bulk down low. AD is one of the top rebounders in the entire association and should be able to control the boards.
However, if he gets into foul trouble against a team like Philadelphia, Denver, or Minnesota, then the Lake Show could be in trouble when it comes to handling some of the more broad-shouldered bigs in the league. Hayes and Wood are pretty good rebounders, but pretty good is not going to cut it when stacked up against the few remaining “bruisers“.
Lakers strength No. 3: Perimeter defense
When Darvin Ham was hired to be the new head coach prior to last season, he came aboard with a reputation as a defensive-minded schemer. Right off the bat, he embedded his defensive principles into the minds of his guys and set the tone prior to training camp.
It is always going to be a major amenity to have Anthony Davis anchoring your backline defense, but in today’s NBA you simply need solid perimeter defenders on the wing to collaborate with your rim protector(s). When the front office obtained the services of Jarred Vanderbilt prior to the 2023 trade deadline, that was the first step (and a major one at that) in building a top-notch perimeter defense. Vando alone has the ability to completely take the opposition’s best scoring option out of a game, whether it be a point guard or power forward.
But while he was maybe the only true stopper the team boasted last year, this year he should have quite a bit of relief in hounding enemy scorers. Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Max Christie, and Cam Reddish all possess either the fundamental skills and/or physical characteristics of lockdown wing defenders. Now, Darvin Ham will have much more flexibility in terms of throwing different guys at the Devin Bookers and Anthony Edwards of the world.
Lakers weakness No. 3: Health
We all know how this story goes. Since Anthony Davis became a Laker in 2019, he and LeBron have combined to miss a whopping 199 games. The human body does not just magically become invincible, either, so it would be assumed that these guys will not suit up for the full 82-game season in 2023-2024 (we will keep our fingers crossed and prayers up on that matter, though).
If there is one area of the game that has genuinely killed this duo since its inception, it has been the aspect of health. And whenever one/both of them are not healthy, that has always killed any form of momentum the team as a whole may have been building.
If they can remain healthy and the supporting cast can simultaneously avoid the injury bug, this team could hypothetically sleepwalk its way to a championship. That is a very, VERY big if though.