There were a lot of championship-caliber aspirations and expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the start of this season. With a roster of guys that seemed to be an overall cohesive unit, skeptics of the 2023-2024 Lake Show were few and far in between.
That shortage of skeptics has quickly turned into a surplus to start the season, with many insiders already murmuring about a potential roster shake-up. Those rumors were bound to begin sooner or later, and with this being among the most publicized and polarizing franchises in the world of sports it should be no surprise that calls for change are occurring roughly a month into the season.
As the trade deadline approaches, and more importantly, the December 15th date when a chunk of the team’s most tradable pieces become available, the organization will need to identify which guys are worth keeping around for the long haul.
Here are a few current Lakers who should not be a part of upcoming trade talks but rather a part of the team’s future core.
The untouchable future Lakers core:
Anthony Davis: If the season ended today, Anthony Davis would be hoisting his first Defensive Player of the Year trophy into the air. There are no other candidates more worthy of the honor than AD, and any counterargument to that claim is invalid.
His outside shooting has tapered off considerably since his hot start to the season, but he is still an offensive focal point as well. Being that he is in the midst of his prime (31 in March) and fresh off a mega extension, Davis should be the main man in Los Angeles for years to come.
Rui Hachimura: Aside from an injury which held him out for a few games, Hachimura has done a nice job picking up where he left off in the 2023 playoffs. He has shot a scalding 50% from downtown through his first 8 games, which has been huge as the team got off to an icy shooting start to the season.
On defense, he has displayed a fortified set of instincts which have boosted his effectiveness as a help defender. Not only is he playing the passing lanes, but he has shown a heightened willingness to sacrifice his body in drawing charges.
Jaxson Hayes: A strong start to the season for Christian Wood has deeply cut into Jaxson Hayes’s playing time thus far. Regardless, he has garnered the respect of his teammates through his infectious energy when he does see the floor. He may never become an elite big man in the NBA, but he has the tools and enthusiasm to play a pivotal support role going forward.
Austin Reaves: Unfair expectations going into the season have cast a bit of a rain cloud over the grander development of Austin Reaves. Had outsiders remained rational for their forecast on Reaves’s 2023-2024 season, things actually would not appear so bad with regards to his slow start. Penciling him in as an All-Star in his 3rd NBA season simply based on 3-4 months of rock-solid play after last season’s trade deadline was a recipe for disappointment.
His shooting percentages may be down and his turnover numbers may be up, but each of his other major statistical categories is up from a season ago. And after a rough onset to this season, he has slowly been gaining momentum back in the direction of where he was heading at the end of 2022-2023.
Cam Reddish: Two seasons ago, Malik Monk came to the Lakers on a minimum deal and balled out. After his lone campaign with the team, he signed a more lucrative contract with Pacific Division rival Sacramento and has not looked back. Last season, Lonnie Walker IV signed with the Lakers for the taxpayer’s midlevel exception and performed admirably. Similar to Monk, he too departed after one season in Los Angeles and has been HOOPING in Brooklyn.
This summer, Cam Reddish became the team’s latest experiment. A lot of people hypothesized another subpar season for Cam, and to start the year it certainly looked like that was where things were heading. However, since his infamous missed game-winner against the Heat, he has completely flipped the script on his narrative with the Lakers.
In the five games since that loss in Miami, his offensive numbers have been humming to the tune of 13.6 points per game on 50% shooting from the field and a hair below 46% from 3. Those numbers are great, but his defense has been his true allure. In that same sample size, he has averaged 2.8 steals a night. That activity has not been an outlier, either, as he has been defending the top perimeter scoring threats night in and night out, and has been all over the floor.
The fans are growing much more confident in Cam, and that is largely in part to Cam growing more confident in Cam. With his teammates, coaches, and fans singing his praises, it would be wise for Rob Pelinka to secure a long-term spot in the band.
Jarred Vanderbilt: We have not even visually seen Vando suit up since the preseason opener, yet we can spiritually feel the impact of his absence to start the season. The front office rewarded him this offseason for his livewire tendencies on defense, and he will remain under team control for the foreseeable future. He may become a solid trade chip once his new contract kicks in next season, but the Lakers would be smart to hang on to him unless they are ever in dire need of help in other areas (such as shooting).
Christian Wood: On the topic of shooting, Christian Wood has filled the stretch big role nicely. His percentage has slowly declined as the games have gone on, but he is still currently only one of a few Lakers shooting above league average from 3. Overall, he has not been as outstanding on offense as he has been in the past, but he has still been a solid secondary scoring threat for the team to look to.
His defense, which was an area he was primarily scrutinized for coming into 2023-2024, has been excellent. Wood has been a steady secondary rim protector behind AD, a reliable rebounder, and has relieved Davis from some minutes battling against bigger bodies. Plus, his surprising agility has made him a switchable defender capable of holding his own against the Kawhi’s and KD’s of the world.