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Against the defending world champion Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, your Los Angeles Lakers employed a new starting five: point guard D’Angelo Russell, shooting guard Austin Reaves, small forward Taurean Prince, power forward LeBron James and center Anthony Davis. Given the team’s current personnel, 4/5 of this lineup was the right choice, though I would have liked to see Gabe Vincent subbed in for Russell at the point. Vincent did play a bench-most 22 points as essentially LA’s sixth man, but he struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm while being constantly whistled for fouls on the other end.
But we’re not here to talk about point guards. Or LA’s starters, for that matter.
The issue is bench perimeter depth, specifically who is dolled out when by LA head coach Darvin Ham.
Ham went 10-deep against the Nuggets, although Denver’s unstoppably effective late-game offense ultimately proved to be too much for Los Angeles to handle, no matter how many bodies it threw at the problem.
Vincent played some off-guard minutes, but Austin Reaves’ primary backup was former lottery pick Cam Reddish, a miscast 6’8″ small forward whose athletic upside far outpaces his court awareness. Second-year swingman Max Christie appeared in 1:15 of garbage minutes with the game already decided, not truly a part of Ham’s opening night rotation. Christie is a true two, and boasts the three-point shooting (in the 2023 preseason, he made 36.4% of his 3.7 triple attempts a night) and defensive awareness to at least be worth a shot in that backup two slot over Reddish.
Reddish, the No. 10 pick in 2019 out of Duke, may be the starrier name as a big-ticket reclamation project on a veteran’s minimum deal, but Christie could be poised for a Reaves-esque breakout (albeit probably not with that upside). It would be a shame to bury him on the bench right now.