Rob Pelinka's main priority this past offseason was retaining the Los Angeles Lakers' core group from the 2023 playoffs. The Lakers general manager checked that off the offseason to-do list before the end of the opening day of free agency. Next up on his checklist was to surround the core group with quality role players who could do the things that championship-level role players do: knock down shots consistently, provide high-energy defense, rebound the basketball, and so on.
At the conclusion of the offseason, most everyone agreed that Pelinka had effectively accomplished his offseason agenda. Within the preliminary phase of free agency, the Lakers boasted an impressive new crew of contributors: Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, and Cam Reddish.
Of that bunch, Vincent was the most prominent (and highest-paid) acquisition. The point guard was fresh off a sizzling 2023 postseason stretch with the Miami Heat in which he officially cemented his place as a sky-high quality support piece (or so we thought).
In the case of Hayes and Reddish, both 2019 lottery picks still trying to find their way in the NBA, the hope was that a change of scenery would reinvigorate their young careers. The pair of prospects possessed plentiful skills that most assumed would produce positive results in Los Angeles. And after countless weeks of speculation, Christian Wood agreed to join the team on a veteran minimum.
When considering the type of production Wood has produced over the past few seasons, it was also largely assumed that he would become an integral component of the Lakers' 2023-2024 championship formula.
As the season has progressed and time has gone on, it is safe to say that each of these guys have been disappointments. Gabe Vincent has played a grand total of 5 regular season games and is not expected to re-join the rotation until late February/early March as he rehabs from a minor knee operation in December.
Jaxson Hayes has had his moments but has just not delivered the type of consistent presence that the organization was seeking upon inking him to an agreement. Cam Reddish has been better than expected, but his offensive ups and downs (which have plagued him throughout his entire career even dating back to his days at Duke) have held him back from truly breaking out.
Even Christian Wood, who most presumed would help lighten the scoring load on the core group, has bounced in and out of the rotation as he continues to find an ongoing rhythm.
So with the lows predominantly outweighing the highs for the Laker newbies, who has been the team's top addition from the summer?
Taurean Prince has quietly delivered quality 3&D production for the Lakers
After the first wave of free agent signings, the Taurean Prince pact stood out as not only a great deal from a Lakers perspective, but from a perspective spanning across the entire league.
Obtaining the 29-year-old's 3&D services at a below-market rate (bi-annual exception) had the potential to turn into one of the genuine steals of the summer, and thus far in his time with the team, he has once again delivered his usual high-quality role-playing ways. He earned the team's fifth and final starting spot after a solid preseason and has remained in that position ever since (with no signs of losing it anytime soon).
He had his hiccups early on (example: 29.3% shooting from 3 in November) but has rebounded nicely from that rough patch (example: 46.4% shooting from 3 in December). He is not the most athletic defender, but his acumen and overall IQ make him a great option to throw at opposing wing scorers. Overall, the front office should give themselves a pat on the back for bringing him aboard at such a team-friendly pay rate.
If he is inevitably included in a trade package that lands the team reinforcements, it will not be due to his performance. Taurean Prince has done exactly what this team signed him to do in the offseason, and he can absolutely assist LeBron and AD in the title race if he does in fact survive the trade deadline.