There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the outlook of the 2023-2024 season for the Los Angeles Lakers. For what it is worth, this might be the deepest roster from top to bottom across the entire league.
Increase the zoom levels and look a bit deeper past the roster crafted for a championship trip, and you will find a bit of baggage for each baller that could weigh the entire operation down. Everybody has baggage, whether or not they own up to it or not. Whether you will admit it or not, that includes you who is reading this article (as well as the one writing it).
The thing about these negative traits and qualities is that they all stem from experiences. When you can take your negative experiences and learn from them, those are the times of the most positive growth in life. In basketball, every individual player has been ridiculed and/or shunned entirely at one point or another due to one reason or another. In the case of the guys who were not able to effectively correct the mistakes that developed their slander, their careers never make it to where it may have been met to go.
Some of those mistakes are small ones that happen on the court which contribute to a player’s scouting report, such as being a lousy laser from the land of long distance. Others are off-the-court follies that forecast a poor image on a player’s future.
With this season’s Los Angeles Lakers team, each player has one distinct red flag that could be a cause for concern at one time or another. Some are much louder than others, but for the most part, everything seems to be peaches and cream in terms of chemistry so far. Time will tell if these possible land mines could burst at some point this season, but we obviously pray that point is never passed.
Every Lakers players’ biggest red flag:
Max Christie | Inexperience
In terms of what he has shown so far in his career, Christie looks like the type of player who could eventually have no holes in his game. He can already defend multiple positions at a high level. He can catch and shoot with confidence. His poise attacking closeouts and ability to get to his spots in the midrange combine with sneaky bounce to hint at a heist of a 2022 second-round draft pick.
No matter how excited we get about what he might become one day, Max is still a minor as of today. Let’s give him some time to prove himself.
Anthony Davis | Injury History
Did you know that Anthony Davis has yet to win a Defensive Player of the Year award through 11 NBA seasons (2023-2024 being his 12th)? That almost does not seem plausible considering how protective he is of the rim.
Had his body stood its ground in the ongoing ailment assault, he would unquestionably have earned at least one of those by now. Unfortunately for the young unicorn, his body has failed him time and time again. That sentiment has rang especially true since he became a Los Angeles Laker.
Of all the Laker red flags, this is the one most clearly hiding in plain sight. We all know what this man is capable of when he is healthy, and we all know what this team is capable of when he stays healthy.
Rui Hachimura | Inconsistency
While nothing spectacular, Rui’s regular season time with the Lakers from late January on was not too shabby. His playing time did waver, though, which was a direct result of his inconsistency. There have been games in his career when he looks like a future star. The problem is, that those games have been sporadic and sprinkled in with other showings of mediocrity and even some of negativity.
His wave of momentum which started in the 2023 has continued to flow into this season, LeBron has clearly taken Rui under his wing. If he can sustain his consistency with efficient play on both sides of the sport, the organization could easily groom him for something greater.
Jaxson Hayes | Past Personal Problems
Jaxson Hayes has been a joy to watch with the Lakers so far. The energy he has exerted on both ends has been refreshing, and he always looks to have positive spirits whether on the court or the bench. A simple observation: he is always smiling. He looks happy to call Los Angeles his new home, and sounds eager to help hold things together within the composition of this roster.
We all make mistakes in life, and it all goes back to the importance of not making them but learning from them. If Hayes can avoid slipping back to some of his younger ways off the court, there are plenty of years on the court ahead of him.
Jalen Hood-Schifino | Inefficiency
It almost always takes rookies some time to fully acclimate themselves to the speed of this league. We witnessed that firsthand when the chosen one Victor Wembayama struggled heavily in his first professional Summer League run. Fans were swift to shift from calling him a bust after that game to now wanting tickets whenever the Spurs come to town.
While JHS is not going to alter his perception as quickly as his rookie classmate, struggling at the start should never translate to a complete loss of hope. The struggle has been very real for him throughout both the Summer League and preseason. His shots have not been falling and he gets a tad careless with the ball at times, but the potential lives on.
Through his struggles, he has still made some nice things happen as a playmaker (4 assists per game in the preseason in sub-19 minutes per night) and has the physicality + IQ to continue expanding his abilities on defense. Growing pains are never easy, but you are always taller when the uneasiness subsides.
LeBron James | Age
In no way is the following sentence an “I’ll second that” to Dillon Brooks’s balderdash banter.
LeBron James is old.
There, the secret is out. The ageless wonder we call LeBron will soon turn 39 years old. For any other player, this flag would be as rojo as they come. There is no logical explanation as to how someone that old can not only lead a championship contender but continue pummeling his opponents so lackadaisically.
There may be no logical explanation for this phenomenon, but there is surely a scientific one. It is simple, there is no one else that invests the type of care into their body and mind that LeBron does.
While this flag has a lighter hue than some of the others, it is also one of the more difficult to overlook.
Maxwell Lewis | Weight
While JHS has the physical build to battle with the big dogs right now, Maxwell Lewis has a lot of work to do to get to that point. His long arms might make up for his slender frame in some cases, but he would get picked apart against guys like Kawhi, Luka, and some of the league’s stockier swingmen. If they saw Lewis lined up against them, common sense says they are going right down to the low block and demanding the basketball.
With a deep rotation of wings ready to rumble right now, this is not something that should cause too many major issues this season. If he can replicate the type of sophomore body transformation as Max Christie, then the most glaring issue next season could be keeping him off the court.
Taurean Prince | Journeyman Status
Looking ahead to his 8th NBA season, Los Angeles will be Prince’s 5th NBA team (Hawks, Nets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves). He has never been a negative on the court through his first seven seasons and has established himself within a niche role that is useful for any team. Furthermore, he will be on the young side of 30 until late March and should have a solid amount of good basketball years left in the tank.
It is a bit surprising that he has not found a place to settle down. In his current place, he came in and earned his starting nod on opening night. Brought in on a one-year bargain, the organization will have a chance to determine if this is the right place for him moving forward. Unfortunately, they will not have his bird rights next Summer which could throw a possible wrench into things.
Austin Reaves | Crickets
What comes to your mind when you think about possible red flags with Reaves? Let’s take a moment to decide on that…
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Did anything noteworthy come to mind? If anything, the only noteworthy negative thought that should have sprung to mind was absolutely nothing.
We do not mean to toot the Reaves horn any louder than it has already been sironed as we approach the start of the season, butttt…..
He is fearless and has quickly validated that verdict on very large stages. He can shoot. He can create for himself and others. He is tough, and he has skin thicker than a snicker. Haters will try to say he is a poor defender, but that is just flat-out nonsense.
And after remaining with the franchise that fathered him into this league, it is clear that he is loyal.
Cam Reddish | Lack of Polish
There are some seriously shiny elements to Cam Reddish’s game. The Paul George comparisons have always been there, they just have not been verified yet. There is just something so identical for the smoothness that the two of them move around on the court.
However, PG has continued to polish the elements of his game that shine. As he has continued to fortify his skills, he has become one of the game’s greatest perimeter threats. Reddish just needs to find the proper polish with his physical gifts and intangibles to get his game gleaming.
D’Angelo Russell | 2023 Western Conference Finals Woes
Defense is definitely one thing that has been the subject of negative discussions regarding D’Lo’s career thus far. However, as a 6’5″ point guard with decent length it is not like Russell was ever a magnified liability as a defender. That was until last season’s Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
His offensive vanishment is where he received most of his offseason defamation, but the Nuggets admittedly targeted him on defense.
He has made it his personal mission to improve as a defender and again looked like a major threat offensive threat this preseason. But he was never a terrible defender for the team last regular season and looked like a perfect offensive complement to the stars leading up to that series.
He could average 20 points a game on 50/40/90 shooting in the regular season, but he is not going to have the full trust of this entire organization and fanbase until he is able to perform up to par in the most pivotal points.
Jarred Vanderbilt | Jumper
As long as Vando is on the court with others who can shoot, this is not a super big reason for concern. With the right lineup configurations, Darvin Ham should be able to offset the biggest hole in Vando’s game.
Regardless of how impactful he can be as a defender, Vando was played off the court in that same infamous Western Conference Finals series. He mentioned shooting as a big part of his regime this offseason, but shooting is a big part of everyone’s offseason regime.
He does not need to be a sniper from outside, he just needs to hit enough shots to keep defenders honest. Because honestly, the Lakers are going to need his defensive energy on the floor.
Gabe Vincent | Streakiness
Vincent looked like a big-time addition to this team in the preseason. He also looked like a big-time player with Miami last postseason. Prior to that, he has quietly looked like a big-time diamond in the rough as a starting caliber point guard who once went undrafted.
But through all of his big-time breakthroughs so far, his career shooting numbers paint him as a very hot and cold type of player. As long as his defensive fundamentals follow him to LA (so far so good), he will have a solid role with his team. If his postseason shooting numbers spill over into this season, he could have a starting role sooner rather than later.
Christian Wood | Past Locker Room Problems
When Christian Wood is in a rhythm, it is easy to look at him as a positive in all the right ways. But when he has gotten into his own head in his past few stops, is has not been difficult to look at him as a negative in all the wrong ways.
Wood has never truly been part of a championship contender, so he had a little more freedom to focus on his individual interests. Now, he is part of a Lakers team that has no other goals aside from winning a championship. His individual interests are now irrelevant, and he will need to stay in tune with the Lakers at all times.