NBA Rumors: Darvin Ham announces Taurean Prince as Lakers' fifth starter
Darvin Ham has come to a decision on the Los Angeles Lakers' starting lineup. Taurean Prince was announced as the fifth starter, with Ham suggesting that the lucratively extended Rui Hachimura provides more offensive value with the second unit.
Hachimura was signed to a three-year, $51 million contract over the summer. He broke out during the Lakers' conference finals run, supplanting Jarred Vanderbilt in the starting five. He averaged 15.3 points and 3.8 rebounds on .533/.333/1.000 splits during the Lakers' four-game sweep to the Nuggets.
Ham is probably on the right track here. Hachimura is a gifted athlete, using his strength to bludgeon defenders and carve out space on drives to the rim. He flashed more as a 3-point shooter and mid-range threat during the Lakers' postseason run, but Hachimura isn't a great shooter and he doesn't provide much as a passer. He's built to come off the bench, pressure the defense as a slasher, and potentially finish games depending on the matchup.
Prince is the classic 3-and-D wing, a role the Lakers should extract plenty of value out of with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves spearheading the offense. Prince probably presents a more consistent defensive option, too. Expect Hachimura to split backup forward and wing minutes with Vanderbilt, who is an accomplished player in his own right.
The Lakers have a long road back to the conference finals, but a season of good health and improved continuity could lead them right back to the Finals doorstep — even in a crowded Western Conference.