The Lakers will play their final preseason game on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns in Palm Dessert, California. Unlike the past five games, this one will serve as some sort of test run for the regular season as Darvin Ham said he plans to play the anticipated rotation for three quarters.
That means we’ll most likely get the closest version of what the Lakers could possibly look like on Opening Night.
Start time and TV schedule
Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
When: 7 p.m. PT, Thursday, Oct. 19
Where: Acrisure Arena; Palm Springs, CA
Watch: NBA TV, Spectrum Sportsnet
At the risk of overreacting, the preseason has taught us a couple of things about this Lakers team despite who has been in and out of the lineup.
For one, their superb three-point shooting performance over the last five games can’t help but give us hope that this might just be the best three-point shooting Lakers team we’ve seen in years. They’ve made 35.8% of their three-point attempts so far which, as a pleasant surprise, isn’t ranked at the bottom of the league.
Second, it’s also fair to hope that this might just be the best offensive team built around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The roster’s versatility, depth and overall talent has stood out in these last five games.
This team’s roster construction makes more sense compared to what we witnessed at the start of the season in the last two years. Ham has a lot more options to utilize against different types of opponents just like how he started two bigs in Sunday’s game against the Bucks and a small-ball-oriented lineup versus the Warriors last Friday.
Then, there’s the fact that a couple of players specifically — Davis, D’Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes and Taurean Prince — have looked excellent and seem to be in tip-top shape heading into the regular season. That’s not to say that the rest of the team doesn’t look good but these four have arguably been the most impressive.
And finally, it’s also safe to say that given the depth of the roster, there will be an internal competition for who gets more playing time. Cam Reddish didn’t exactly have the best preseason debut but his noteworthy performance last Sunday at least earned him consideration for more minutes. So did Christian Wood, who has shown glimpses of what he can bring to the table with his unique skillset.
Overall, it’s been a productive preseason for the purple and gold as the process of getting comfortable playing with each other and putting the pieces together continues. And now that they’re about to approach their preseason finale like a dress rehearsal for the upcoming regular season, it’ll be more fascinating to know what else we can learn about this team.
Here are three storylines worth looking out for during Thursday’s match against the Suns:
How ready do the Lakers really look?
Arguably the most important takeaway from this game is how prepared the Lakers look ahead of what’s going to be a tough start to the season. Four of their first five games are against tough teams in the Western Conference in the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers. It would be ideal if the team looks sharp and ready to attack the season as early as this game on Thursday.
How do the Lakers match up against the Suns?
Yes, it’ll be too early to conclude anything from the result of this game but at the very least, it’s a preview of how both teams match up against each other. The Suns are perceived as one of the favorites to win the championship which is why this game is the perfect opportunity to serve as a measuring stick for Los Angeles — especially since the Lakers will see Phoenix twice in the first three weeks of the regular season.
Will the game be competitive? What’s L.A.’s defensive game plan going to be like against arguably the best scoring trio in the league? Will the Suns be able to contain the Lakers’ frontcourt?
And a lingering storyline will be that, if James and Kevin Durant suit up, this will be the first time they face each other since December 2018.
What is the rotation going to be?
While Ham has yet to reveal what his starting lineup is going to be on opening night, it seems fairly obvious that Prince will take the last spot. We’ll get further confirmation on that ahead of Thursday’s preseason finale. The lineup of Russell, Austin Reaves, Prince, James and AD have played two games together and it’ll be nice to see how this potential starting unit looks again before the real games begin.
Darvin Ham is still unwilling to name his 5th starter for opening night, despite my best efforts. Seems pretty clear it’s between Taurean Prince and the incumbent, Jarred Vanderbilt. If Vando (heel) is cleared Friday, he’ll still have 3-4 days to ramp up before DEN pic.twitter.com/0sdONwy8cB— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 17, 2023
Aside from the starting unit, this is the perfect time to observe Ham’s rotations: Who’s going to be the first one to sub in? How often will they play big and small? Who’s going to lead the second unit?
These are some of the questions we’ll get answers to as early as Thursday’s game against the Suns. Hopefully, the Lakers end their preseason stint on an encouraging note.
Notes and Updates:
- In case you missed it, the Lakers released Scotty Pippen Jr., Damion Baugh and Vincent Valerio-Bodon — three of their Exhibit 10 contract signees — last Monday.
- Thursday’s game will also be the first time the Lakers will play against Suns head coach Frank Vogel since they fired him last April.
- As expected, Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel soreness) won’t be in uniform tomorrow but will be re-evaluated on Friday. Meanwhile, Gabe Vincent (back soreness) and Jalen Hood-Schifino (knees) are listed as day-to-day.
- As for the Suns, Vogel reportedly plans to play Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal heavier minutes on Thursday, which means this game will feel pretty much like a regular season game. Meanwhile, Damion Lee (right knee meniscus) and Ish Wainright (right calf strain) will be out for this one.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani