In a league filled with egos and icons, the concept of establishing “roles” is always very important when it comes to staving off potential on-court issues. If a head coach outlines not only what he/she expects from an individual but more importantly what the team needs from that individual, then success will often follow. Maybe those outlined responsibilities may not align with exactly what the player expects from themselves, but they still need to buy in for the team.
When you think of a highly successful business, it is common knowledge that there are multiple individuals/teams/departments that work together to keep things running smoothly. In the same way, there are 14-15 players working together in pursuit of an NBA Championship.
For the teams that have successfully conquered the competition in this pursuit, it would be safe to assume that the players on their rosters embraced their roles. Not only the guys tasked with lighting up the scoreboards or filling out the stat sheets, but also the guys at the end of the bench waving the towels and remaining enthusiastic throughout the DNPs.
There are 14 active players on the Los Angeles Lakers roster as we look ahead to this season, and each of them will undoubtedly be asked to fill some type of role. Similarly, each player will be assigned responsibilities that they will be tasked with owning. Those roles and responsibilities may change as the season goes on, but for now, Darvin Ham should have a pretty good idea of his expectations for each player. Lakers fans should anticipate him holding his troops accountable.
Each Lakers starters’ role:
D’Angelo Russell = The Silent Assassin
Through the start of the preseason, D’Lo’s performance has been far from quiet. Seemingly pushed to the side by the fanbase in the offseason, he has come out of the gates strong and reminded everyone everywhere of what he is capable of.
With so little noise surrounding his name since the end of last season, Russell looks to have taken his criticisms personally. There was not a lot of word from D’Angelo and/or his camp this summer, but it is obvious that he was in the gym putting in the work. If he can maintain that sense of tranquility throughout the season and let his actions do the talking, his critics’ loud remarks will quickly fade to mumbles.
Austin Reaves = The Hooper
Not that he cannot handle it, but there is actually a lot of pressure on Austin Reaves to deliver this season. After the things that he has done in the 2023 calendar year thus far, All-Star aspirations should not be out of reach. With so much evidence to support his claim to the title of “Him”, we have to keep in mind that he is not even a Top 30 NBA player at this point and is only heading into his third season.
Those things considered, he just needs to continue going out and doing what he does best: hooping. He plays the game the right way, and it will be important for him to avoid trying to do too much this year.
Taurean Prince = The 3&D Vet
Taurean Prince being penciled in as the 5th Laker starter seems to be picking up steam on a daily basis. Neglecting the thought of the fouling clinic he put on during his preseason debut, and his potential fit with the starting 5 is vivid. He has always been a reliable option on the wing, with his defensive acumen being his primary calling card throughout his career. If he continues splashing outside shots at a steady clip, his calming feel should be a welcome addition to the opening lineup.
LeBron James = The Wise One
LeBron has accomplished just about all that there is to accomplish in this sport. With so much experience and so much knowledge of what it takes to be successful in this league, it will be important for him to continue offering wisdom to his younger teammates.
Sure, he will be responsible for running the show and setting the table, but he has plenty of help with all of that. He will play a major role in terms of winning games this year, but the lessons that he sheds light on for the youngsters could yield even more wins looking on down the road past 2023-2024.
Anthony Davis = The Monster
With Halloween just around the corner, many are fearful of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. What opposing NBA defenses should be dreading, however, is handling AD this year. He has always been a handful in the paint, and his head coach has been adamant about him being more confident with his outside shot this season. Perhaps Ham might be getting a bit ahead of himself with this stuff, but props to him for going public with his confidence in Davis.
If he can figure it out from downtown, there are scary hours ahead for Laker opponents. Of all the Laker opponents that may want to be cautious when it comes to AD, the Denver Nuggets have clearly lit a fire inside of him following last postseason.
Lakers bench roles:
Gabe Vincent = The Steady Presence
Nobody is mistaking Vincent for an All-Star, but no one should be expecting that type of production from him either. His 2023 postseason run in Miami worked wonders in regards to establishing who he is, and he seems like the type of player who is highly comfortable with who he is. Especially in between the lines of the court, it is always vital for a baller to remember who exactly he is and not try to be someone/something that he is not.
When things get a bit helter-skelter this season, Gabe Vincent is the kind of player who should more than help with weathering those unforeseen storms.
Max Christie = The Scrapper
Max Christie has slowly made a name for himself this offseason. He dominated the Summer League and has been one of the first guys off the bench for Darvin Ham thus far in the preseason. This may be jumping the gun a bit, but it looks like he has gained the trust of his head coach. Of course, he will need to sustain that, but he also needs to continuously earn the trust of his teammates (whom he is competing with for minutes). He needs to consistently show them why he deserves to be on the court.
Heading into his sophomore year, he is surrounded by a wealth of scoring and playmaking punch. Christie will get his shots, and canning those shots will be one way for him to earn the trust of his peers. The real way for him to boost the trust of his colleagues is by doing the dirty work. When there is a loose ball on the floor, he needs to be the first one on the ground every time. He needs to be battling for offensive boards against bigger bodies.
He has put in the work this offseason to improve his body, now he just needs to exhibit a willingness to sacrifice it for his guys.
Jarred Vanderbilt = The Energizer Bunny
Whether it be as a starter or one of the first boys off the bench, there should be no shift in Vando’s primary role with this team. He will again be tasked with making the lives of opposing scoring threats miserable. Aside from that, he just needs to continue being one of those guys who is “everywhere” when he is on the court. That type of player is one that opponents are never fond of, and his energy levels should again prove irritable amongst the bad guys.
Rui Hachimura = The 6th Man of the Year
Rui has looked crisp so far in the preseason, and it is very apparent that his offseason grind under The Wise One’s tutelage is paying off. He brings a lot to the table on both ends of the floor, and his performance in 2023-2024 could very easily produce his first serious hardware if things go well. We do not want to jinx anything here and so we will not delve too deeply into this one, but Hachimura should be in store for a very big season.
Christian Wood = The Renaissance Man
While he will surely not have as much free reign with the rock as he did at his other stops, that is not to say that Wood will not get his touches. The opportunities to score the ball will always unearth themselves when you are playing next to LeBron and AD (and Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, etc).
But while those opportunities should be exciting, the opportunity to resurrect his career should be what really makes Christian Wood giddy. Scoring a lot of points is not going to be the way that he does that, either. Demonstrating a consistent team-first attitude from now through the season’s end will be the way that he can alter how he is perceived.
Jalen Hood-Schifino = Pup 1
You ever just look at a little puppy and could not help but smile? Despite his status as a human, JHS is that little puppy in Laker Land. As a young, unproven rookie, we should all be very excited about what he could one day become. He has an abundance of potential, and hopefully one day he will blossom into a true dog in this league. For now, he will be on a very tight leash while we continue to watch him grow.
Maxwell Lewis = Pup 2
Just like JHS, Lewis has a long way to go in his NBA journey. While he is presently just a little guy in the eyes of his peers, he could be someone whose tree you do not want to bark up in the near future. For now we will all sit back and witness his build-up with the hope that one day he will pack quite the bite.
Cam Reddish = The One with the Chip on His Shoulder
Of all the players on this roster, none has more at stake than Reddish. Regardless of physical characteristics or a smooth offensive game, none of that matters if there are no results to show for it. Through his first 4 seasons, things just have not yet clicked for him. Quite frankly, this could be his last legitimate chance to cement his place in the NBA. While wings are always going to be a major component of any roster, there are always up-and-coming wings entering the league.
If he is not careful, Cam Reddish may find himself as an odd man out after this season. It is essential that he not only buy into his role but harness all of the dirt that has been thrown at this name. Some people take negative opinions as water to their fire, but he must view it as gasoline.
Jaxson Hayes = The Pogo Stick
Jaxson Hayes should become a fan favorite in Los Angeles. While that adoration will probably stem largely from the highlight reel dunks we assume he will produce this season, his slams should not be the sole source of the love that he receives from the Laker faithful. His hops pose a massive vertical threat to opposing rim protectors trying to cut off a LeBron drive. Furthermore, those bunnies should instill a sense of doubt to any opposing scoring threats as they venture into the paint.
His leaping ability should build a lot of excitement amongst fans while also developing a lot of discomfort among opponents.