Uncharacteristically, head coach Darvin Ham revealed his starting lineup not just before a game, but days beforehand. After practice on Saturday, Ham confirmed what many had assumed and named Taurean Prince the fifth starter.
Prince will join the obvious in Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Austin Reaves. D’Angelo Russell was named the starting point guard even before his solid preseason.
Darvin Ham says Taurean Prince will start at small forward on opening night. He says it’s partly circumstantial due to Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 21, 2023
Coming into the preseason, Prince was likely on the outside looking into the starting lineup by many fans with the assumption being one of Jarred Vanderbilt or Rui Hachimura had the inside tracks.
As Ham noted, Vando’s injury opened the door for Prince to step in. Hachimura, meanwhile, has embraced a bench role as the scoring punch amongst the reserves.
But Prince did more than enough to earn his spot amongst the starters as well. The veteran wing averaged 9.3 points on 55.9% shooting overall and 45.8% shooting from the 3-point line, a good first step toward his vow of shooting 40% from range this year. Being available for all six games helped as well and he used those appearances to impress enough to earn his spot.
The challenge now for Prince will be to continue to impress to make sure he keeps his starting spot even after Vando returns from injury. For now, Vanderbilt hasn’t been ruled out of the first game of the season as he’s listed as day-to-day, but it doesn’t feel likely he’ll play.
His ability to do a bit of everything and be a glue guy and connecting player makes him especially available to this starting lineup alongside LeBron and AD. Even if he doesn’t retain his starting spot, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he isn’t a valuable player for this roster.
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