The final NBA preseason game for the Los Angeles Lakers will not be one anyone wants to miss. Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has said he will play his starters into the second half, which means LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Taurean Prince will all see meaningful minutes to continue to gain continuity.
This game should give everyone a look at the Lakers’ likely rotations going into the season and with so much depth on the roster, who Ham turns to has been a big question. The only Lakers players expected to sit out are Jarred Vanderbilt, who continues to deal with a heel issue and will be re-evaluated on Friday, Gabe Vincent, who has a minor back issue and isn’t playing for precautionary reasons, and Jalen Hood-Schifino with a knee issue.
Coincidentally, these two teams will meet again in one week in the Lakers’ home opener, so each side will get a good look at what to expect in each team’s second regular season game. However, while Kevin Durant is playing for Phoenix, former Lakers and now Suns head coach Frank Vogel said that Devin Booker and Bradley Beal are not.
The preseason has been a promising one for the Lakers so far as they have built on the chemistry they established last season. Davis has been aggressive on both ends of the court and looks poised for a big season while Reaves has been on fire in his limited action, shooting 68.8% from the field and 62.5% from 3-point range.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Lakers has been D’Angelo Russell, who has looked excellent as a scorer and distributor while also giving excellent effort defensively. But all eyes will of course be on James.
The Lakers have eased LeBron into this preseason and he has shown some flashes, but this will be the first extended look at how he is coming into his 21st NBA season. Exactly how much LeBron will look to take over, or defer to his teammates, not to mention his overall aggression, will be closely watched.
On the other side is a Suns team that has the most talented star trio in the NBA with Durant, Booker and the newly-acquired Beal. While the Lakers won’t have to deal with them all on Thursday, it’s something they will face early in the regular season.
Both squads also have questions about who will be the final person in the starting lineup.
For the Lakers, Taurean Prince has been the fifth man next to LeBron, Davis, Russell and Reaves for the last few games and has given the team exactly what they would hope for. His efficient offense and excellent shooting along with solid defense has been an ideal fit. Rui Hachimura has also been solid this preseason and there have been no signs that he can’t continue his high level of play he showed in the playoffs.
With Vanderbilt hurt, the last starting spot seems to be down to those two and this contest could be the deciding factor. The same can be said for the backup shooting guard spot between Max Christie and Cam Reddish, each of whom has had ups and downs.
Likewise, the Suns made a lot of additions this offseason and seeing how Vogel works out his rotation between the likes of Eric Gordon, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop and Grayson Allen, among others, will give the basketball world an idea of who the Suns will trot out next week.
But of course, the most important thing for both teams is to finish this contest with no major injuries just before the regular season begins. Even though it’s preseason, this marks the first time that James and Durant have shared the court together since Christmas of 2018. Hopefully both can remain healthy for another week and that streak can actually come to an end in the second game of the regular season.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) vs. Phoenix Suns (3-1)
7:00 p.m. PT, October 19, 2023
Acrisure Arena, Palm Springs, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Rui Hachimura, Christian Wood, Max Christie, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish, Maxwell Lewis
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Eric Gordon
SG: Grayson Allen
SF: Josh Okogie
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Keita Bates-Diop, Nasir Little, Yuta Watanabe, Drew Eubanks
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