With the preseason wrapped up, the Lakers are primed to begin season No. 76 and go after title No. 18. Here are five things we learned about this team from the preseason.
New offensive system
Head coach Darvin Ham shook things up in his first season as Lakers head coach by implementing the four-out one-in motion offense. This season, he's relying heavily on the five-out scheme to utilize the Lakers' shooting and individual play-making ability.
"We have a team full of guys that can all dribble pass and shoot who are all young, athletic, fast quick that can make plays off the dribble from a face-up position," Ham said after the Nets preseason game. "It's a similar system that they ran when they won the championship in 2020."
Switching from four-out to five-out means you won't have a big clogging up the paint anymore and all five players will begin around the perimeter. Anthony Davis should benefit greatly from this change not banging as much inside, which he has been very vocal about disliking. Now he'll have more actions where he'll begin at the top of the key and on the wing, able to initiate ball screens, receive the ball and take more three-point shots, something Ham has emphasized he wants Davis to do more of.
These Lakers can shoot
With a more spread out offense, the head coach encouraging their star to be aggressive shooting from beyond the arch and new additions such as Taurean Prince and Gabe Vincent, this Lakers team might become the greatest three-point shooting team in Lakers history.
Before you plan for the championship parade, remember that the Lakers are a historically bad three-point shooting team. Last year, they finished shooting 31% from three, the sixth-lowest percentage in the league.
In preseason, they've shot 36.1%, good for ninth best in the association. The improvement may not seem drastic, but even shooting five percent better leads to more scoring, better spacing and forces defenses to contest every shooter instead of clogging the paint and dominating the glass.
If L.A. can maintain even that 36.1% rate, that would make this team the sixth-best shooting Lakers team of all time. In preseason, they've shown signs they can keep up this percentage and perhaps even be better once Vincent is comfortable and we have games with full rotation minutes with Rui Hachimura.
Starting five solidified, for now
With a Lakers roster that appears so deep on paper, one of the main topics of conversation during the preseason was what the starting five would be. Ham immediately established that D'Angelo Russell would be the starting point guard but kept who the fifth starter would be to himself until Saturday, when he named Taurean Prince the opening-day starter.
Ham said it was partly circumstantial due to Jarred Vanderbilt's injury, but Prince has performed well as a Laker during the preseason, averaging 9.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. We'll see if Prince keeps this position or if Vanderbilt takes over once he's healthy, but a hierarchy is established for now.
Sixth man Rui
Speaking of a hierarchy being established, Hachimura will be coming off the bench for the purple and gold this season. Ham and the Lakers believe they can extract more out of Hachimura offensively with him coming off of the bench, and they may be right.
It’s been interesting to see Rui’s usage evolve in the pre-season— LAbound (@LAbound2) October 16, 2023
Primarily used as a release valve last year, Darvin Ham is now running actions with Hachimura as the focal point
Lakers running Pistol Action with Rui as the #1 option and he exploits the switch pic.twitter.com/AgNDVPrHYJ
The hypothesis has been backed by Hachiumura's fantastic playoff run last season and his preseason performance, scoring 10.5 points on 45.5% shooting. The temptation might be there to implement Hachimura into the starting lineup and attempt to create the most high-powered offense possible, but rosters and rotations need balance.
By keeping Hachimura as a super sub to come off the bench and get buckets, you create a situation where you have a starter-level player coming off the bench to help get your offense going if they start slow or struggling in a game.
Also, while Hachimura is a certified bucket, he does have flaws as a defender. Coaches tend to prefer defense over offense when players are close talent-wise and Ham has stressed the importance of defense time and time again.
Boring is fun
TNT might know drama, but it's usually not something you want on a basketball team. The Lakers had a boring preseason, but it has been a breath of fresh air versus the last few seasons during the Russell Westbrook era where roster concerns and trade rumors permeated all conversations.
This preseason was all about basketball and just minor issues on who was in front of who in the rotation, with both options often being similar enough not to cause anger or frustration regardless of what side of the conversation you were on.
Health is wealth, and going into the first regular season game the Lakers are relatively healthy, with the only noteworthy injury appearing to be Vanderbilt’s. Overall, you have to feel good that heading into the 2023/24 campaign, the Lakers have a deep roster that is relatively healthy with a legitimate shot at contending for a title.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.