Five Lakers lineups we want to see next season


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Lakers training camp begins in less than five weeks.

In the lead-up to media day and camp in early October, head coach Darvin Ham and his new coaching staff are spending countless hours projecting and preparing the team’s depth chart, rotation and various lineup combinations.

As Ham has said multiple times this offseason, most of the starting lineup is undetermined — LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves are the only locks — which trickles down to the rest of the rotation and presents considerable options.

With that perspective, let’s examine five of the more interesting lineups the Lakers could use next season.

1. Two-way upside

PG: Austin Reaves
SG: Max Christie
SF: Rui Hachimura
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

There are different variations of this lineup — Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt and Cam Reddish could swap in for Hachimura and/or Christie — but this feels like the grouping with arguably the highest upside on the Lakers’ roster (at least based on the potential Christie flashed in summer league). This could eventually be a crunch-time staple for Los Angeles.

Davis, James and Hachimura can defend any frontcourt position. Reaves can defend either backcourt spot and most wings. Christie projects to be able to do the same. That level of defensive versatility opens up plenty of switching opportunities while maintaining size with a bigger backcourt (Christie is 6-foot-6 and still growing, and Reaves is 6-5). The dynamics of a Reaves-Christie pairing are fascinating.

The quartet of Davis, James, Hachimura and Reaves should be the foundation of many of the Lakers’ best lineups next season. That was their in the Western Conference finals. They can plug several players into Christie’s spot, as aforementioned, but the second-year wing offers a 3-and-D skill set that is valuable around four of the team’s primary scorers.

2. Twin towers

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Max Christie
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Jaxson Hayes

The Lakers’ two-big look doesn’t make much sense, at least from a starting perspective, but it should be effective during certain second-unit shifts. In this example, Christie and Prince are the wings alongside a realistic bench lineup built around Davis and Russell.

Russell is a dangerous lob and pocket passer, one who could help unlock some consistency in Hayes’ rolling and finishing. It’s easy to envision Hayes thriving in a role similar to JaVale McGee’s or Dwight Howard’s from the Lakers’ championship season: screen, roll, rim-run, dunk. With the threat of those two on the interior, Russell will in turn find himself in one-on-one scenarios that he can exploit.

The tandem of Davis and Hayes could protect that perimeter trio defensively (there isn’t a stopper, per se, though Christie has the talent to become one). Conversely, Vanderbilt could bolster this lineup with his perimeter defense in Prince’s or Christie’s place, but it’s difficult to play him, Davis and Hayes together because of the trio’s shooting limitations.

3. LeBron at the 5

PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Max Christie
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: LeBron James

James played only six percent of his minutes at center last season, a sharp decline from the 49 percent he played during the 2021-22 season, according to Cleaning the Glass. Nonetheless, it remains an effective curveball in doses. Last season, Lakers lineups with James at center outscored opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s an exceptional mark.

One of the keys in James-at-center lineups is making sure the rest of the group is capable defensively and on the glass. Hachimura, Prince, Christie and Vincent all range from average to good defensively. There isn’t a weak link to pick on. This lineup doesn’t have Reaves or Russell to push the pace, but the ball should fly around the floor as it tends to with smaller James-led lineups.

Vanderbilt could replace Hachimura, functioning as a playmaking big and screener out of the short roll.

4. Shooters, shooters, shooters

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

Three-point shooting and floor-spacing, in general, have been significant issues for the Lakers’ offense during most of the James-Davis partnership. Los Angeles has ranked in the bottom 10 of 3-point makes, attempts and percentages in three of the previous four seasons (and in the exception season, 2021-22, they still only topped out at below-average). It’s challenging to win in the modern era as a subpar shooting group. Adding two plus-shooters in Prince and Vincent — assuming he can carry his playoff success over to the regular season — via free agency helps, but the Lakers also need to use more shooting-heavy lineups.

Put the Lakers’ three best shooters — Russell, Reaves and Prince — around James and Davis and defenses will be in a bind. If James and Davis are running a two-man action, where does the opponent help off of? Reaves (40.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s), Russell (40.8 percent) and Prince (40.9 percent) are all elite catch-and-shoot threats. You can’t leave any of them alone.

This has the potential to be one of the Lakers’ best offensive lineups — one that can close games in specific matchups. What’s more, it’s possible that Vincent, Christie or Hachimura could slide in for Prince and provide a similar ceiling as a shooter.

5. Super-sized switchability

PG: Austin Reaves
SG: Cam Reddish
SF: Jarred Vanderbilt
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

Since the February 2023 trade deadline, the Lakers have remade their identity by adding long, athletic wings such as Hachimura, Vanderbilt, Prince and Reddish. This is their chance to use their longest and most athletic duo (Vanderbilt and Reddish). Of course, those traits come at a price: Reddish and Vanderbilt are minus-shooters up to this point in their careers, creating spacing constraints.

Still, this lineup is young, fast and athletic around James and Davis. Reaves gets the nod over Russell and Vincent due to his size and ability to scale up against bigger wings. He’s also better at orchestrating the offense in transition, as he’s displayed during his Team USA tenure.

Hayes is theoretically a candidate for this lineup as well — he can switch onto wings — but there are spacing concerns if he takes the place of Vanderbilt or James.

(Photo of LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell: Harry How/Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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