NBA Rumors: Morey’s Harden hangup, Lakers lineup question, Jokic in on Olympics

  • Nikola Jokic will participate in 2024 Olympics with Serbia
  • Darvin Ham plays coy about Lakers' fifth starter
  • Daryl Morey continues to play hardball in James Harden trade talks

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers / Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
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NBA Rumors: Darvin Ham refuses to name Lakers' fifth starter

The Los Angeles Lakers made several tweaks to the roster in free agency. While the competitive core remained — Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Austin Reaves, D'Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura — there appears to be uncertainty over how Darvin Ham will structure his rotation ahead of the regular season.

Or, perhaps there is no uncertainty at all, and Ham is simply playing coy when the answer to the age-old question of "who will the fifth starter be?" is clear as day.

ESPN's Dave McMenamin made a strong case for why Taurean Prince should be the Lakers' fifth starter... then asked Ham what the argument would be for an alternative. Ham refused to budge, instead moving along to the next question. McMenamin positions the fifth starting spot as a battle between Prince and Lakers incumbent Jarred Vanderbilt, who started after his trade deadline arrival last season before Hachimura emerged in the playoffs.

One would imagine the Lakers eventually want to elevate Hachimura to the starting lineup full-time after his three-year, $51 million extension, but Rui's style is well suited to a sixth-man role. Vando is a bullish defender who makes his living on pure hustle. Prince is, to quote Ham, the quintessential 3-and-D player. He can defend a couple of positions, run the floor in transition, and hunt spot-up 3s. That spacing is useful next to LeBron and AD.

Based on preseason evidence, it does seem like Prince is the favorite. It would also be completely unsurprising for Vanderbilt or Hachimura to emerge as superior power forwards over the course of the season. The Lakers have the luxury of options here.

Final prediction: Russell, Reaves, James, Prince, Davis is the first five on opening night.