Darvin Ham Explains Why Last Year’s Lakers Starting Lineup With Jarred Vanderbilt Has Hardly Played Together
Jarred Vanderbilt, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has played with the starting lineup consistently during the 2023-24 season. They have yet to go more than five games in a row with the same starting lineup while 46 games into the season. And perhaps Ham’s biggest area of criticism is that he has yet to go back to the starting lineup that brought L.A. to the Western Conference Finals last season with Jarred Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt, alongside D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, went 12-7 combined between the regular season and playoffs last year after the trade deadline. The unit had a 14.4 net rating during the regular season, as they had elite offensive movement from Russell and Reaves while Vanderbilt held the perimeter down defensively.

A heel injury held Vanderbilt out of a significant portion of the season, but he has now been back for 25 games, leaving many wondering what L.A. needs to do to go back to the starting lineup that had so much success last season.

Even if that is not the starting group, they have only played a handful of minutes together period this season.

Ham spoke about why he hasn’t gone to that lineup often and if it’s a possibility moving forward.

“Not really. I think it’s just the way things have shaken out,” Ham said when asked if there’s a specific reason he’s stayed away from it. “Taurean has been one of our most durable guys and one of our better 3-point shooters. With LeBron and AD playing the brand of basketball they play, even this morning we were showing a clip where AD was playmaking from the post and had three guys on him. So as much spacing and shooting that you can put around them, the better.

“But having said that, it was unfortunate that Vando had to miss the time that he missed at the outset of the season and it’s been a whole entire process getting him back healthy, just now getting him back into game shape. As you saw, he went crazy on the offensive glass for us last game against the Clippers, and some of the plays he’s been making in the passing lanes and deflections and switching on different perimeter threats, interior threats, he’s rounding back into form. So you never know. You just got to take things day by day. It’s good to know though that we have that option should we want to push that button.”

Ham certainly doesn’t rule out the use of that lineup at some point this season, but seems to like what Taurean Prince brings to the table in his place. The stats favor Vanderbilt in the starting lineup due to the balance between the offense and the defense, but the five-man unit with Prince certainly hasn’t been a major issue.

The NBA season is a long one filled with numerous changes to lineups and strategies. Perhaps the Lakers are going to get back to that lineup eventually, but for now, they’ll enjoy the recent success they’ve been having with Prince in the mix.

Austin Reaves believes Lakers have momentum

The Lakers are set to embark on a six-game road trip after 10 games at Crypto.com Arena, and the entire team will need to lock in. Reaves believes their most recent performance against the Bulls has given the team some momentum as they hit the road.

“Being home all month was nice. Obviously there was games in that 10 games where we feel like we could’ve won, should’ve won,” Reaves said. “But to play the way we played tonight, other than a little bit in the fourth quarter, gives us a lot of momentum going into this road trip.

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