The 2023-24 NBA regular season is set to begin, and the Los Angeles Lakers are hoping it will be a turn-up and a lead-in to a triumphant playoff run and their 18th world championship.
Last season, they began play with an unbalanced and incomplete roster, and after a 2-10 start, they struggled to tread water and stay within striking distance of the .500 mark. But after multiple midseason trades, the Lakers were born again, and they became one of the league’s best teams.
Their late-season momentum boosted them to an unexpected trip to the Western Conference Finals where they got swept by the Denver Nuggets. Still, that run, combined with a rather successful offseason, produced plenty of optimism and even excitement about this season.
As opposed to a year ago, the Purple and Gold have a deep and rich roster that could end up doing something special in the months to come.
23 - LeBron James
This is James’ 21st NBA season, and if how he looked during the preseason is any indication of how he will do this year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
After becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer last season, James can reach the unthinkable 40,000-point mark as well as become the all-time leader in All-Star selections this season.
3 - Anthony Davis
The question with Davis is always whether he will stay healthy. Last season, he missed about five weeks with a right foot stress injury, but he remained healthy the rest of the way.
If he does miss some time again, perhaps the Lakers can withstand it with their improved depth, so long as he doesn’t miss more than a few weeks.
But when Davis is healthy, there is absolutely no doubt that he’s one of the best players in the world and a monster on both ends of the floor.
15 - Austin Reaves
Reaves is no longer an upstart looking to prove he’s a useful player. He’s now a legitimate stud, especially after his strong postseason run and time with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup.
The question is will Reaves up his game even more, and by how much. There is a feeling among some, including head coach Darvin Ham, that he could end up becoming an All-Star in the near future.
1 - D'Angelo Russell
Russell had career-highs in overall shooting percentage and 3-point shooting accuracy last season, and perhaps he has taken his game to a higher level. The question is whether he will maintain those high shooting percentages for another full season and, more importantly, if he will shoot consistently well in the playoffs.
28 - Rui Hachimura
Since coming to L.A. in a late January trade, Hachimura has provided the team with instant offense, especially in iso situations and in transition. He raised his game during the playoffs and played a key role in the Lakers’ deep run.
It appears the forward’s best bet for success is off the bench, perhaps as a sixth man. Keep an eye on his 3-point shooting and defense — those are the two areas of his game that have the most room for improvement.
11 - Jaxson Hayes
At 6-foot-11 and 220 pounds, Hayes seemingly has go-go gadget legs that allow him to throw down big dunks and block shots. Consistency and aggression, as well as staying focused defensively and on the boards, will be the keys for him to get plenty of playing time.
12 - Taurean Prince
Prince is going to be in the Lakers’ starting lineup, at least for opening night on Tuesday versus the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets. His accurate 3-point shooting and ability to effectively defend opposing wings make him a seemingly great candidate to hold onto that starting spot all season long.
Vanderbilt emerged as the special gem of last season’s Russell Westbrook trade due to his ability to effectively defend opposing players at multiple positions. But will he improve his 3-point shooting enough to not be a liability for the Lakers?
7 - Gabe Vincent
One of the Lakers’ biggest free agent signings this summer, Vincent is essentially a replacement for the outgoing Dennis Schroder. His ability to play some in-your-face defense, especially on opposing ball-handlers, and hit 3-pointers should make him a key member of their rotation.
35 - Christian Wood
Wood will be called on to play the center position, both in relief of and alongside Davis, while providing the Lakers with instant offense and some rebounding. But he will need to improve his defense in order to stay on the court.
10 - Max Christie
The Lakers have high hopes for Christie in what will be his second NBA season. He has shown signs of becoming a 3-and-D wing, and his effort defensively and on the boards can take him far moving forward.
5 - Cam Reddish
Reddish hasn’t amounted to much in four NBA seasons after he was a lottery selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. But he will have an opportunity to resurrect his pro career with the Lakers this season.
Hood-Schifino, a 6-foot-6 rookie guard out of Indiana University, struggled offensively during summer league and preseason play. But he clearly has potential, and the Lakers organization will have to find at least a little playing time for him to allow him to develop.
21 - Maxwell Lewis
Lewis, an athletic 6-foot-7 wing, is a wet ball of clay for the Lakers to mold into a good player. Will he eventually turn into a beautiful piece of art?
14 - Colin Castleton (two-way contract)
Castleton, an undrafted rookie, has shown potential as a facilitator from the high post, and he has also shown promise defensively and on the boards.
55 - D'Moi Hodge (two-way contract)
Hodge is a 6-foot-4 undrafted guard who is a promising 3-point shooter and someone who can be disruptive on the defensive end and even handle the ball a bit.
17 - Alex Fudge (two-way contract)
Fudge, yet another undrafted player, is 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds and spent last season at the University of Florida after a year at Louisiana State University.