Lakers would be crazy to write off Jalen Hood-Schifino after just one season

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Jalen Hood-Schifino in 2023. Despite a challenging rookie season, it would be premature to write him off already.
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers / Harry How/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers will have the No. 17 overall selection in the NBA Draft for the second consecutive offseason. It's a compelling place to be, as the Lakers have an opportunity to add a player who can create depth while simultaneously operating as a long-term piece to develop.

As the Lakers look ahead to what could soon be, however, it's important not to lose sight of the player who was selected at No. 17 just one year ago: Jalen Hood-Schifino.

Hood-Schifino, who will turn 21 years of age later this month, has been widely panned after appearing in just 21 games as a rookie. He was brought in as something of a project player, however, as his freshman season at the University of Indiana showed the rawness of his game.

Giving up on him after an underwhelming rookie season because of what most agreed would transpire would be a horrible display of impatience.

For one, Schifino is on the books for just $3,879,840. Considering how limited the Lakers' resources are this offseason, writing a player off whose cap hit is minimal because of their performance—or, more accurately, playing time—as a rookie would be an act in defiance of logic.

The Lakers not only need Hood-Schifino to take a step forward next season based on their financial restrictions, but they have three pivotal reasons to believe he'll be able to do so.

1. Jalen Hood-Schifino found his jumper in the G League

In terms of his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Hood-Schifino struggled to gain traction. He played more than 10 minutes in just three games as a rookie, and all three of those outings were in November.

Hood-Schifino spent a strong portion of the 2023-24 season in the G League, however, and he showed enough during that time to prove that he still has intriguing upside.

Hood-Schifino appeared in 15 games for the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles' G League affiliate. During that time, he averaged 22.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 three-point field goals made on .473/.432/.800 shooting.

For a player who was knocked coming out of college for being erratic from beyond the arc, shooting at an elite clip in the G League is a massive step forward.

Translating that success to the NBA is the obvious goal, but the sample size of 15 games is strong evidence of progress. He was aggressive in pursuing the three-ball, attempting 5.4 shots from distance per outing, and his conversion clip of 43.2 percent is certainly commendable.

If Hood-Schifino continues to develop his outside shot, he could become the 3-and-D player whom the Lakers desperately need off of the bench as soon as the 2024-25 season.

2. Jalen Hood-Schifino can help fill the playmaking void

The Lakers are preparing for an offseason that could result in extraordinary losses on the offensive end of the floor. LeBron James and D'Angelo Russell have player options, and their potential departures would result in Los Angeles losing a combined 43.7 points and 14.6 assists per game.

Most expect James to re-sign with the Lakers this summer, but the loss of Russell could leave a hole in the form of 18.0 points and 6.3 assists per contest—and Hood-Schifino could help in the latter area.

The former Indiana Hoosiers standout showcased an impressive ability to create for others during his time in the G League. His average of 5.5 assists per game was no surprise to those who watched him at Indiana, as Hood-Schifino's calling card was often his playmaking ability from the wing positions.

It was a big reason Hood-Schifino earned praise as a potential top-10 draft pick whose upside could be explored over the course of his rookie deal.

Hood-Schifino may not be able to replace Russell outright, but he can certainly help as the Lakers look to add capable distributors to the rotation. That includes his ability to push the pace in transition and find teammates for easy baskets.

With two offensive skills worth developing already, the question then becomes what he could offer on the other end of the floor.

3. Jalen Hood-Schifino has tremendous defensive potential

At the 2023 NBA Draft Combine, Hood-Schifino measured at 6'4.25" without shoes and 217 pounds. One of the calling cards of his upside was the fact that he combined a strong frame with a 6'10.25" wingspan that could enable him to defend positions beyond his own.

Projecting as a shooting guard, Hood-Schifino simply has too much 3-and-D potential for the Lakers to justify writing him off so early in his development.

Los Angeles has a void to fill in terms of long and athletic defenders who can run opponents off the three-point line. In 2023-24, the Lakers ranked 28th in three-point field goals allowed at an unforgivable 14.3 per game.

Allowing roughly 43 points per game off of three-point field goals alone, it would be disastrous for the Lakers to overlook one of the few players on the roster who can potentially help cut into that figure.

As a capable playmaker and seemingly improved shooter who has significant defensive potential, Hood-Schifino fits a desired archetype. A trying rookie season may not have fans singing his praises, but eliminating him from talks about the 2024-25 rotation would be beyond premature.

Hood-Schifino deserves the opportunity to earn his place without the designation of a draft bust after just one season in the NBA.