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Los Angeles Lakers fantasy basketball season recap

Previous team recaps: DETWASPORCHASASTORMEMUTABKNATLCHIHOU, SAC, GSW, MIA, PHI, ORL

At a glance:

Record: 47-35 (8th, West)

Offensive Rating: 115.4 (15th)

Defensive Rating: 114.8 (17th)

Net Rating: 0.6 (19th)

Pace: 101.38 (4th)

2024 NBA Draft Picks: 17, 55

Having reached the Western Conference Finals the season prior, the Los Angeles Lakers began this season with hopes of taking the next step. While there were some new additions to the roster, LeBron James and Anthony Davis continued leading the way, with D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura among the returnees. The Lakers finished this season with four more wins, but the improved depth of the West consigned them to another Play-In tournament appearance. As fate should have it, the Lakers had to once again deal with Denver in the postseason, with the Nuggets dispatching them in five games.

As a result of that first-round failure, the Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham and are still working on filling that vacancy. While it was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic that former NBA guard and current ESPN color commentator JJ Redick is a prime candidate for the role, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on June 6 that UConn head coach Dan Hurley has been the "apple" of the Lakers' eye. Hurley's Huskies have won the last two national titles, and there's reportedly a real interest in his “tactical acumen and elite player development.”

Regarding the roster, Davis, Reaves, and Hachimura are under contract for next season, while James and Russell have player options. As long as James and Davis remain in the team's plans, the Lakers will be in "win now" mode, which could impact how the team uses its two picks in this month's draft. Four of the team's five starters finished this season as top 100 fantasy players, with Davis providing top 5 per-game value in 9-cat formats.

Fantasy Standout: Anthony Davis

Easy choice here, as Davis appeared in 76 games and was a top 5 player in 8- and 9-cat formats. Finishing fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting and earning second-team All-NBA honors, he averaged 24.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.3 blocks, and 0.4 3-pointers in 35.5 minutes. Davis shot 55.6% from the field and 81.6% from the foul line, with the latter being his best since the 2019-20 campaign. Most notable about AD's 2023-24 season was the availability, as the 76 games played were a career-high. Davis had not appeared in 75 games since the 2017-18 season, his penultimate in New Orleans.

The availability was huge for roto league managers, as this was Davis' first top 5 totals season since his first with the Lakers (2019-20). A fixture in the top 20 for seven straight seasons, AD finished 135th and 93rd in totals during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, according to Basketball Monster. Regardless of who the Lakers hire as the team's next head coach, Davis should be the focus of what they do. He won't turn 32 until next March, and while injuries have been a concern in previous seasons, he (in theory) has more seasons remaining in his career than James. While Davis may not be a top-5 pick in drafts next fall, he should stay safely within the first round.

Fantasy Revelation: Austin Reaves

After making 22 starts in his second NBA season, Reaves began the 2023-24 campaign as a starter. While only 57 of his 82 appearances would be starts, the third-year guard's fantasy value improved significantly. Reaves averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.9 3-pointers in 31.2 minutes, shooting 48.6% from the field and 85.3% from the foul line. Establishing new career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and 3-pointers, he finished the season as an 8th-round player in 9-cat formats.

Reaves' production aligned with his Yahoo ADP (88.8), so fantasy managers weren't surprised. However, given the nature of the Lakers' roster and their fantasy values, he's the best choice for this superlative. Depending on what moves Rob Pelinka and co. make this summer, Reaves should once again be a safe top 100 fantasy pick. However, James or Russell moving on to another team would boost his fantasy value considerably.

Fantasy Disappointment: Spencer Dinwiddie

Coming off of his first top 100 fantasy season, Dinwiddie was a player many fantasy managers were willing to commit to, based on his Yahoo ADP of 106.1. While selecting a player at that point in a draft isn't a significant gamble, that was a reach for someone who had been a top 150 player twice in ten NBA seasons. Dinwiddie began this season with the Nets, starting all 48 games he appeared in before the decision was made to send him to Toronto for Dennis Schroder and Thaddeus Young. Toronto waived him shortly after that, with the Los Angeles native signing with the Lakers on February 10.

Dinwiddie came off the bench for 24 of his 28 games with the Lakers, averaging 6.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.3 3-pointers in 24.2 minutes. For the season, he was responsible for 10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.6 3-pointers in 28.3 minutes, shooting 39.2% from the field and 80.5% from the foul line. Dinwiddie finished the regular season ranked outside the top 200 yet remained rostered in 40% of Yahoo leagues. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and fantasy managers should avoid committing to Dinwiddie, regardless of where he lands.

Fantasy Recaps/Look-Aheads

LeBron James:

Father Time may be undefeated, but James showed no signs of slowing down this season. After three consecutive seasons of 56 games played or less, he made 71 appearances for the Lakers, averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 2.1 3-pointers in 35.3 minutes per game. James shot 54.0% from the field (his highest percentage since 2017-18), 41.0% from three (career-high), and 75.0% from the foul line. Boasting a Yahoo ADP of 24.8, LeBron was a top 10 player in 8-cat per-game value and top 20 in 9-cat.

James exceeding his Yahoo ADP does not mean fantasy managers should move him up on their boards. He'll be 40 in December, and there's still the question of where he will play next season. He has a player option worth over $51 million; while whether or not to pick up the option would be a no-brainer for most players, that isn't the case for James. It's been reported that he's had no say in the Lakers' head coaching search, but it's fair to wonder how the team's decision would impact LeBron's choice regarding his player option. Selecting him at the Round 2/3 turn in standard leagues wouldn't be an egregious gamble, but the age could result in LeBron slipping a bit on draft boards.

D'Angelo Russell:

Russell didn't have a "bad" 2022-23, but his finish to the season left a bad taste in the mouths of many Lakers fans. He struggled in the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets, but the Lakers re-signed him to a two-year deal with a player option for the second. Russell appeared in 76 games (69 starts) this season, averaging 18.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 3.0 3-pointers in 32.7 minutes, shooting 45.6% from the field and 82.8% from the foul line. Russell exceeded his Yahoo ADP (99.8) by a considerable margin in 8- and 9-cat formats, ranking a few spots outside of the top 50 in the former.

Russell has a player option worth nearly $18.7 million, and he said during his exit interview that he'll “try to take advantage” of his leverage. Whether that means he's a lock to opt out and become a free agent or take his time to evaluate the potential market remains to be seen. But Russell will have value in fantasy basketball next season. How valuable he'll be depends on the landing spot; remaining with Davis and James in Los Angeles would limit his fantasy ceiling, but the floor would be reliable.

Rui Hachimura:

Hachimura began the season as a reserve, starting only seven of the 36 games he appeared in before February 1. Moving into the starting five on February 3 boosted his value, with the lakers forward averaging 15.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.7 3-pointers in 31.1 minutes, shooting 57.6% from the field and 70.9% from the foul line. From February 3 onward, Hachimura provided 10th-round per-game value in 9-cat formats and 12th-round value in 8-cat. His fantasy value for the season was considerably lower, with Rui sitting outside the top 150 in 8-cat.

While there was some optimism that Hachimura could improve his fantasy value after solid contributions during the Lakers' run to the 2023 Western Conference Finals, he remained a late-round option. Could the potential departure of James change things next season? Possibly, but he will be competing with a healthy Jarred Vanderbilt for minutes. Look for Hachimura to remain in that "late-round flier" category.

Taurean Prince:

With Vanderbilt suffering an injury during the preseason, Prince emerged as the winner of the competition to be the fifth starter in the Lakers' lineup. The veteran forward remained in that role until early February, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 2.0 3-pointers in 30.4 minutes, shooting 42.7% from the field and 74.4% from the foul line. Prince was most valuable for his 3-pointers and steals during that time, but that wasn't enough to justify rostering him outside of deep leagues.

As one would expect, being moved to the bench decreased Prince's already-low fantasy value, and he finished the regular season ranked outside the top 200 in 8- and 9-cat formats. The 30-year-old wing will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and it shouldn't be too difficult for him to find a landing spot due to his abilities as a defender and catch-and-shoot option. However, that will not be enough to make Prince a viable option in most fantasy leagues.

Christian Wood:

After performing well as a reserve during the 2022-23 season as a member of the Mavericks, Wood agreed to a two-year deal with the Lakers in September. Injuries limited him to 50 appearances, and he wasn't impactful when available, either. Wood averaged 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, and 0.7 3-pointers in 17.4 minutes, shooting 46.6% from the field and 70.2% from the foul line. Competing with Jaxson Hayes for consistent playing time didn't do Wood any favors, but having to back up Anthony Davis limited the fantasy potential of both players from the start. Wood has exercised his option for next season, but his fantasy prospects are unlikely to change. Hayes being a free agent could free up additional minutes, but Wood is not a player who should be selected in drafts.

Jarred Vanderbilt:

Having started 24 of his 26 games after joining the Lakers at the 2023 trade deadline, Vanderbilt appeared on track to retain that role this season. Unfortunately, a case of left heel bursitis that became an issue during the preseason lingered. Vanderbilt was limited to 29 games this season, averaging 5.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 20.0 minutes, shooting 51.8% from the field and 66.7% from the foul line. As one would expect based on those numbers, he was not a factor in fantasy basketball. Vanderbilt provided solid late-round fantasy value during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, ranking just outside the top 100, with rebounds, steals, and field goal percentage being three categories he was impactful in. For fantasy managers to take advantage of this potential in 2024-25, he has to remain healthy.

Gabe Vincent:

When the Lakers signed Vincent in free agency, the hope was that he would, at a minimum, be another option for the team to rely on at the point guard position. Unfortunately, a knee injury limited him to 11 games, with the former Heat guard averaging 3.1 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.3 3-pointers in 19.8 minutes. It should surprise no one that these were Vincent's worst numbers since his rookie season when he only appeared in nine games for Miami. If healthy, he can provide insurance on the perimeter if the Lakers happen to lose Russell. However, if D'Lo returns to Los Angeles, Vincent would be a late-round option in fantasy leagues at best.

Restricted Free Agents: Max Christie

Unrestricted Free Agents: Taurean Prince, Spencer Dinwiddie

Player Option: LeBron James, D'Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish