The Los Angeles Lakers have done their free agency shopping early this offseason as their roster currently stands at 13 players, eventually adding one more piece this offseason. All along though, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s top two priorities were to retain restricted free agents Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura and the Lakers reportedly came to terms on a three-year, $51 million contract, a fair deal for what the forward provided in the team’s postseason run. He would become a spark plug in the playoffs for the Lakers, averaging 12.2 points shooting 55.7% from the field and 48.7% from downtown.
With the phenomenal playoff run, it looks like Hachimura may have secured a starting spot heading into next season as well. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the front office expects Hachimura’s play to carry into next year:
After investing heavily in Hachimura this summer, the Lakers expect him to pick up where he left off in the postseason and remain a starter despite being a bench player during the regular season.
It seems like a starting spot, whether it be the small forward or power forward, is Hachimura’s to lose as the front office is instilling faith into the forward going into this new deal.
Hachimura seemed to struggle when initially coming over in the trade, however. In 33 games (nine starts), he averaged 9.6 points on 48.5% from the field and 29.6% from beyond the arc. But, having a 29-point performance like he did in Game 1 on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies, a crucial win in the grand schemes of the series, Hachimura proved that there is another level he can still get to.
It’ll be interesting to see who head coach Darvin Ham considers as his starters alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once training camp rolls around. It seems that Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell have a good chance of starting in the backcourt as they did last season, so the final spot could come down to Hachimura or Jarred Vanderbilt.
D’Angelo Russell ‘early favorite’ to start over Gabe Vincent
Russell was also brought back on a two-year, $37 million contract in the first couple days of free agency. However, with Russell’s inconsistency in the playoffs and adding another guard in Gabe Vincent, there could be some competition for the starting point guard spot.
For now, Russell is reportedly the ‘early favorite’ to hold onto that starting spot over Vincent. The lineups are expected to be fluid, so expect there to be some experimenting from Ham and staff heading into the preseason and potentially early in the regular season.
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