The Darvin Ham lineup move that hurt the Lakers more than any other

In mid-January, the Los Angeles Lakers were sputtering. They held a mediocre 19-21 record, and they had lost 12 of their last 17 games. As a result, there was a real chance at the time that they wouldn’t even make the play-in tournament.

But since then, they have won 29 of 43 games, including Tuesday’s play-in tournament contest against the New Orleans Pelicans. Head coach Darvin Ham’s decision to move forward Rui Hachimura into the starting lineup is one thing that sparked L.A.’s turnaround.

Ham deserves credit for giving Hachimura the nod in the starting lineup. However, before that, he started Cam Reddish in 26 of the team’s first 40 games, and he deserves criticism for that decision.

Reddish, a former lottery pick in 2018, can now be called a certified bust. He finished the regular season shooting just 38.9% from the field and 33.6% from 3-point range, and although he can apply ball pressure at times on defense, he cannot be called a good overall defender.

Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report called the decision to start Reddish the Lakers’ biggest regret of the season.

Via Bleacher Report:

“It may not be a coincidence that L.A.’s season took off when the Duke [University] product wasn’t such a big part of it.

“Reddish started 26 of the first 33 games he played, averaging 23.6 minutes through Jan. 13, the date of his last first-unit appearance. At that cutoff, the Lakers were 19-21 with a minus-0.9 net rating overall and a minus-2.0 with the 24-year-old on the floor. Remember, that number came with him playing mostly alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“Since then, with Reddish missing time due to injury and playing a drastically reduced role when healthy, the Lakers went 28-14 and posted a plus-2.8 net rating. Rui Hachimura, who eventually took over for Reddish in the first unit, has been a two-way key to L.A.’s second-half surge.”

With Hachimura in the starting five, the Lakers not only played well, but they became a near-elite offensive team, at least in terms of production. In fact, after the All-Star break, they ranked fourth in offensive rating, third in points per game, second in field-goal percentage and first in free throw attempts per game.

Los Angeles even ranked third in 3-point accuracy following the All-Star break, thanks in part to Hachimura making 42.2% of his 3-point attempts on the season. By contrast, in October, November and December, it ranked 28th, 23rd and 18th, respectively, in 3-point shooting percentage.

One could say that Ham starting Reddish for 26 games sabotaged the first half of the season for the Lakers.

One Western Conference assistant coach is puzzled by Ham’s decision to stick with Reddish in the starting lineup for so long and even called it “stubborn.”

Via Heavy Sports:

“It was always a little strange that they stuck with him, even to the point of it being stubborn for Darvin to keep running him out there,” the assistant coach said. “It’s a situation where it was almost like the front office was set on giving him a half season and then deciding to make the change. Someone was being very stubborn with it. Because once the decision was made to pull him, that was it—he got hurt, and he did not come back.”

With the return of guard Gabe Vincent, who played well on Tuesday, and the midseason addition of Spencer Dinwiddie, there simply isn’t any room in the Lakers’ rotation for someone such as Reddish who is, at best, a slightly above-average defender and a negative on the offensive end.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire