Comparing the Lakers role players:
Austin Reaves | Eddie Jones
Many forget just how great Eddie Jones was during his time as a Laker. When the act that follows you is the greatest Laker of all time in Kobe Bryant, it is understandable for your contributions to be understated.
Austin Reaves has received a bunch of (well-earned) buzz this in 2023 as he climbs his way up the ladder. Unfortunately for him, his climb will not fully shine through until he steps out from behind the shadow of LeBron (and to a lesser extent AD). That unleashing could come as soon as this season, but we will have to wait and see what happens.
Whatever happens, though, Austin Reaves and Eddie Jones are/were both highly regarded for their versatile, high IQ skillsets from the guard spot. They impact/impacted each game in numerous ways, and are/were the type of teammate that everyone wishes to have on their side.
D’Angelo Russell | Nick Van Exel
D’Angelo Russell and Nick Van Exel are/were both left-handed Laker point guards. However, they are/were much more than just left-handed point guards for this team.
They can undeniably each dribble the ball up the court and call out the sets per their respective coach’s instructions. But while they are/were both guys that could follow the fundamentals, they also have/had that razzle-dazzle factor as well. They can/could splash triples in their sleep, break an unsuspecting ankle, whip a behind-the-back dime, and so on.
They know/knew how to get their teammates going, but even further they know/knew how to get the crowd going.
Rui Hachimura | Antwan Jamison
Bouldering bigs that can buy buckets in a bevy of branches are few and far in between. Antwan Jamison might never come to someone’s mind when thinking back on some of the best basketball players. He may never even be sworn into the Hall of Fame.
But none of that is to say that Antwan Jamison did not understand how to effectively play the game. More specifically, he knew how to score points. As a 6’8″, well-built forward, he is someone that Rui Hachimura can look up to. Neither of them boasted/boasts a perfect game. Just like Jamison, though, Rui is no easy matchup for any defender to deter. He also has lots of time to build the well-rounded reputation that Jamison could not.
Gabe Vincent | Derek Fisher
When all is said and done, Derek Fisher may go down as the poster boy for the population of trusty-vets. He was never one to pump in a ton of points or create a lot of major highlights, but he was constantly someone that his teammates and coaches could count on when on the court. When the Lakers needed someone other than Kobe to hit a big shot throughout the duration of the Kobe era, it was almost always Fish stepping up to check that box. Some of his most precious seconds as a member of the Lakers came in the most treacherous playoff battles.
Fresh off last season’s postseason battle next to Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent more than backed his ability to support a Mamba-like marine in the line of battle. His collected feel for the game along with his gritty defense mirrors that of Fisher’s. Now, we will have an opportunity to see if he can maintain his warzone dependability next to LeBron and AD.
Taurean Prince | Trevor Ariza
This one might be the most spot linking from the present and past. Prince and Ariza are pretty much the exact same player on the floor: 3&D guys that do not look to elaborate much further than hitting catch and shoot shots while supplying stout defense. Ariza was without a doubt an X factor next to Kobe and Pau in the Lakers’ repeat years, and Prince now has the opportunity to embody that same X factor next to LeBron and AD.
Jarred Vanderbilt | Michael Cooper
Fun fact: Michael Cooper is the only Laker in NBA history to be crowned Defensive Player of the Year. Anthony Davis is probably the most likely Laker to end that drought, but that is not to say he is the only active Laker that could feasibly earn the honor.
Jarred Vanderbilt can go from defending Stephen Curry one night to Kevin Durant the next. Not only does he have the ability to defend those legends, but he is among a very small crop of perimeter hoop halters that can flat-out knock those gentlemen out of a rhythm.
Cooper had the same type of versatility and functionality as a wing defender. His long, lanky arms combined with his athleticism separated him from the pack in the same way that Vando has.
Max Christie | Doug Christie
Primarily remembered for his efforts to contain Kobe during the height of the heated Lakers-Kings rivalry (we pray that rivalry is re-born soon), Doug Christie actually started his career on the other side. Through his first two campaigns in the league, he looked the part of a future scrapper in the association. Heading into his second year as a Laker, Max should have a very similar role for this team.
Doug made a solid leap from his rookie roundtrip to his sophomore season, and it will be intriguing to see if Max can replicate that same growth. So far through the summer and preseason, it is clear that he has put in the work to make that leap. Now he just needs to actually make that leap.
Christian Wood | Troy Murphy
If you are a big man who cannot shoot, you better be able to defend and rebound at a high level. On the flip side, if you are a big man who cannot defend and rebound, you better be able to hit shots at a high level.
Christian Wood and Troy Murphy may have joined the Lakers at separate times, but they were both brought to town thanks in large part to their shot-making talents. They are/were both capable of blocking shots and grabbing boards, but none of that was a major reason for their Laker contracts.
Murphy’s time in Los Angeles was short, but we are hopeful that Wood’s is lengthier. At just 27 years old, he could really grow into an integral part of the future of this franchise if he always does what the team needs from him.
Jaxson Hayes | Ronnie Turiaf
Jaxson Hayes has quickly shown that he was more than worth the minimum-level contract the Lakers gave him this summer. His vertical is the most noteworthy component of his game, but his energy every time he has stepped on the floor thus far as a Laker has been infectious. He might never have a consistent role within the rotation, but any big willingness to go out and expend maximum effort is going to be useful.
Ronnie Turiaf is never going to be enshrined into the HOF, but he will always hold a place in the hearts of the Laker faithful. He never sustained a regular role in his time with the Lakers, but there was never doubting his willingness to give it everything he had any time he checked into a game.