The biggest question the Los Angeles Lakers needed to answer prior to the start of the 2023-24 NBA season was who would be the fifth starter for Darvin Ham.
The Lakers had a solid four of D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James and Anthony Davis locked in, but there were several candidates to start alongside them. Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura were considered to be the favorites given they both have experience as starters.
However, Vanderbilt missed most of the preseason with a heel injury that will force him to miss Opening Night against the Denver Nuggets, while Hachimura didn’t make a very strong case for himself. Instead, Ham confirmed that Taurean Prince will get that coveted fifth starting spot.
When asked about the starting role, Prince expressed how happy he was and that he’s looking forward to showing what he can do, via Mark Medina of Sportskeeda:
“All the hard work coming together and paying off, so I’m super grateful and excited about the opportunity,” Prince said.
Los Angeles made Prince one of their first free agency signings and got him on a bargain deal for one year, $4.5 million. As a prototypical 3-and-D wing player, Prince makes perfect sense next to the two stars and guards and he showed that during the preseason with a few strong showings.
His first game was rough as he dealt with foul trouble, but he picked things up from that point on as he was able to knock down 3-pointers and took on the harder defensive assignments. Those two skills alone make him a valuable role guy and it should pay off during the course of the regular season.
Ham did say that Vanderbilt would get a chance to reclaim his starting spot once he’s healthy enough to return, but if Prince plays well he could very well just stick there. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out, but Los Angeles is fortunate enough to have multiple strong options should it needs to pivot.
D’Angelo Russell downplays significance of Opening Night matchup against Nuggets
Russell had to spend most of the offseason hearing it from Lakers and Nuggets fans alike for his poor series in the Western Conference Finals, so he should be extra motivated to play well.
The team had to hear a lot of chatter from the Denver organization following their championship run, but Russell downplayed it all and emphasized that it’s a normal game for him and the rest of the roster.
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