Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every week day, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Gabe Vincent.
The Lakers followed suit on their promise in the offseason by retaining most of their core members from last season’s team with the exemption of Dennis Schröder. The 2023 FIBA World Cup MVP couldn’t turn down the attractive $25 million contract that the Toronto Raptors offered him, so the Lakers went on to pursue Gabe Vincent instead.
Coming off a commendable Finals run with the Miami Heat, it made sense why the Lakers viewed Vincent as a decent replacement for Schröder. The undrafted guard doesn’t necessarily possess the same skillset but he’s going to offer his own specialities to the mix. Vincent best summarized what that was during Media Day:
“I think I have a little bit of a versatile skill set,” Vincent said. “I think I can play make, shoot the ball, space the floor and defend. A lot of that will just be filling the gaps of what’s needed. I think it might be something different every night. I think my role may be in flux or in motion but my role is to help this team win games at the end of the day to keep it that simple.”
Vincent presents himself as a Swiss army knife on the court but perhaps the biggest difference between him and the feisty Schroder is their foot speed, on-ball defense and ability to drive to the rim.
As my colleague Alex Regla pointed out in his piece on Schroder, the German native led all Lakers guards in drives per game (9.4) last season, according to the league’s tracking data, which also ranked second behind LeBron James (9.7) on the team. That’s a far cry from Vincent’s drive attempts per game (5.2) from last season as well.
Then there’s the matter of Schröder’s point-of-attack defense, which was one of the biggest reasons why Darvin Ham often trusted him to close out games. Vincent won’t be able to replicate Schröder’s speed, peskiness and ability to get under their opponent’s skin but the 6-foot-2 combo guard has proven that he has size and physicality to serve as a competent defender against the opposing team’s best primary ball handler.
Now, the biggest question for Vincent is whether he can produce enough to fill in the void that Schröder left behind. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to mimic everything Schröder did in the previous season, but more so become the reliable backup point guard that Dennis was for the team last season.
What is his best-case scenario?
Vincent will most likely be one of the first options off the bench, as we’ve already seen in the pre-season. The best-case scenario for Vincent is if he turns out to be a competent backup point guard for the team this season — not just in the regular season but also in the playoffs.
The California native averaged 12.7 points, 3.5 assists in 37.8% three-point shooting in 30.5 minutes in the playoffs last season. If he keeps this up this year, there’s a good chance that he can instantly find a permanent role on this team. He’s had the experience of playing with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo so that might just help him adjust alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James as the season goes on.
It would also be ideal if Vincent can serve as an option as a point-of-attack defender with his strength and size. The Lakers will face a lot of potent guards like Devin Booker, Stephen Curry and Jamal Murray to name a few. There’s enough evidence that proves that Russell won’t be able to take on the assignment of containing these guards and so this is where Vincent comes in the picture. Can he be one of the best perimeter defenders on the team?
If Vincent is able to thrive in his role offensively and be one of the team’s best defenders, the crafty guard might just be assigned to close out games, similar to what Schröder did last season.
Now that Vincent will be viewed as a long-term member of the Lakers’ core, the best-case scenario for him is to be one of the Lakers’ best guards so that they don’t end up looking for an upgrade on that spot during the trade deadline or in the offseason.
What is his worst-case scenario?
The worst-case scenario for Vincent is if he turns out to be Kendrick Nunn 2.0: the former Heat guard who the Lakers gambled their taxpayer mid-level exception on only for Nunn to be one of their worst signings ever in the LeBron-AD Lakers era. If Vincent follows a similar path, his time in Los Angeles won’t last long.
Another unfortunate scenario that could happen is if Vincent significantly underperforms to the point that he gets buried on the bench. There’s enough depth and versatility on this Lakers roster that will entail competition for those minutes in the guard position. If Max Christie or rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino outperforms Vincent throughout the season, then that will be a bad look for the 27-year-old guard.
Vincent deserved the hard-earned contract the Lakers offered him this summer but for as good as he is as a player, he also has his flaws — particularly his questionable shoot selection at times and his inconsistent shooting. If these two weaknesses end up decreasing his role and minutes this season, then there’s a possibility that he could be involved in trade conversations during the deadline.
What is his most likely role on the team?
Just like what Vincent did during his time with the Heat, the key for him is to consistently contribute across the board: whether that means scoring, spacing the floor, knocking down his three-point attempts, handling the ball in spurts or defending his man well enough. He has to serve as one of the team’s glue guys and bring that competitive energy on most nights.
As mentioned above, Vincent will be one of the first guards to come off the bench so the goal for him is to be a reliable backup guard for the second unit. He has the skillset to run pick-and-rolls with the bigs (his growing chemistry with Davis is already evident), get out in transition, create his own shot with his crafty ball-handling skills and utilize his high basketball IQ — which his teammates have already praised him for — to be the team’s glue guy.
Vincent doesn’t necessarily have to do everything Schöder did for the Lakers last season. That’s an impossible task simply because of the fact that they’re two different players. But what Vincent can do is find a way to impact the team with his own skillset and thrive in his role enough to fill in the gaps that Schröder’s departure left behind.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani