Lakers identify members of the young core it plans to build around

The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to bridge the gap between the past, the present, and the future. It has several players in mind to help it do so.
Los Angeles Lakers v Toronto Raptors
Los Angeles Lakers v Toronto Raptors / Cole Burston/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers have spent the duration of the LeBron James era pursuing the big splash that will take it over the top. As James prepares to enter his age-40 season, however, the Lakers are operating with a different vision in mind.

For the first time since the group that was traded to acquire Anthony Davis was initially formed, Los Angeles has a young core that it believes it can build with.

Davis and James continue to be the focal points of the Lakers' plans, but there's an eye on the future for perhaps the first time during Rob Pelinka's tenure as general manager. Rather than looking for short-term solutions with long-term limitations, Pelinka is hoping to build something sustainable.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Pelinka believes there are several young players on the current roster who can help the Lakers achieve that goal.

The comments were made during the introductory press conference for new Lakers head coach JJ Redick.

Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura lead the Lakers' young core

Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves, 26-year-old wings who helped the team reach the 2023 Western Conference Finals, are names that most would expect to be mentioned. Reaves is coming off of a career year in which he averaged 15.9 points, 5.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.9 three-point field goals made per game.

Hachimura, meanwhile, averaged 13.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game on .537/.422/.739 shooting.

Hachimura's 13.6 points per game translated to a career-best 18.2 points per 36 minutes. It speaks to the larger issue that Los Angeles is hoping to address this summer: Former head coach Darvin Ham seemingly operating with a different vision than Pelinka for how the roster should be utilized.

Hachimura, for instance, spent 29 games as a reserve this past season, while Reaves came off the bench on 25 occasions during stretches that left many Lakers fans baffled.

No one saw a shorter end of the stick in that regard than the other two identified young core members: Max Christie and Jalen Hood-Schifino. Christie appeared in 67 games, starting seven, but averaged a mere 14.1 minutes per appearance.

After re-signing Christie to a four-year, $32 million contract, it's clear that Pelinka and the Lakers believe he can overcome the Ham experience and find his niche in the rotation.

Hood-Schifino was all but absent from the Lakers' lineup despite being selected at No. 17 overall in the 2023 NBA Draft. The 2022-23 Big Ten Freshman of the Year averaged 5.2 minutes in 21 games played for Los Angeles, but thrived in the G League with marks of 22.2 points, 5.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 three-point field goals made per outing on .473/.432/.800 shooting.

Moving forward, the Lakers are expecting all four players to take a step forward under Redick with what project to be considerably larger roles.