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Do the Lakers need playoff success for Darvin Ham not to be fired?

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the postseason fast approaching, do the Lakers need to have success in the playoffs for Darvin Ham to keep his job?

Last week, we introduced our first Lakers weekly mailbag and had a number of questions. Most of them pertained to the postseason, which makes sense with the play-in and playoffs just weeks away.

Let’s take a look at what questions you guys had about the coming weeks, starting with head coach Darvin Ham.

The Lakers' Future
Great way to keep fans involved. I want to think of a really good one. lets see.........
Lets assume that the front office truly considers firing Ham, what type of success does he need to have in the post season to save his job, or do you think he gets fired regardless, even if he wins the title?

I think, at this point, Ham has probably secured his job for next season. Now, it’ll just be a matter of how hot his seat is heading into next year.

For one, as much as fans are tired of hearing it as an excuse, few teams in the league have had more injuries this season. According to Spotrac, the Lakers are sixth in the league in man games missed. Of the five teams ahead of them, only the Heat, who are one spot ahead, are in postseason contention.

It has been arduous to get the Lakers to this point. Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury changed the team's landscape from the onset and set an unfortunate tone to start the season. Even as they’re getting healthy in the final weeks of the season, it feels too little, too late to expect production from them.

Another reason to believe Ham is safe is because the buck stops here with Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss. Darvin Ham is the person they picked, without anyone else’s input, to coach this franchise moving forward.

Now, if they fire him, there are no more fall guys. The fingers are pointed at them and the scrutiny is turned up on them. Keeping Ham around offers a buffer.

To be fair as well, I do think Ham has done things to earn him more time. His switch to a 5-out offense to start the year has made the offense a big strength for this team. At times, the defense has looked elite, particularly early in the season during their In-Season Tournament run.

And, most importantly, this team has stayed connected this season. Through the injuries and the ups and the downs, Ham has kept the belief of the team intact. That matters for something.

As mentioned, this becomes an easier sell overall the deeper they go into the playoffs. If they don’t make it out of the first play-in game, that’s going to be a very hot seat and while I contend he should survive into next season, it would be tenuous.

Obviously, each game/series they win beyond that makes it easier to bring him back. But ultimately, I’d be a little surprised if he isn’t the Lakers' coach at media day in 2024.

Good idea Jacob. I missed these.
I have a few questions but I will start with this one.
Ideally if we make it to playoffs and past the play in game(s) what would your rotation be for the first round of the playoffs? Just in general and not taking into account matchups.

I’ve already toyed with this question a bit, but the answer is that it’s hard to have one right now.

Last year, for example, Dennis Schröder played 26.1 minutes per game and Jarred Vanderbilt played 20 per game through the first nine playoff games. Can you physically expect Vando to play that right now in postseason games? Do you feel comfortable giving anything close to that many minutes to Gabe Vincent?

Here’s my best guess at a rotation with some rough minute guestimates right now, assuming both Vincent and Vando are healthy.

Guard - D’Angelo Russell (30) | Gabe Vincent (13)
Guard - Austin Reaves (36) | Spencer Dinwiddie (15)
Forward - LeBron James (38) | Taurean Prince (12)
Forward - Rui Hachimura (28) | Jarred Vanderbilt (20)
Center - Anthony Davis (38) | Jaxson Hayes (10)

Teams don’t run 10 deep in the postseason, though. And if I were pointing to people most likely to be cycled out, it would be Vincent, Prince and Dinwiddie, in that order most likely. I could also see the Lakers going to the LeBron-Rui frontcourt if the match-up in a series is right and phasing out Hayes as well.

If the Lakers don't make the playoffs, or have an early exit, do you expect major offseason moves (i.e. trades)? Or does it make sense to maintain roster continuation but explore a coaching change that can maximize/optimize rotations and schemes?

I think there could be some shakeup, but I’m not sure if it’d have to do with an early exit. Dating back to January, the Lakers were already laying seeds of their interest in Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and a third star in general. To make that trade, you need to shake up the roster.

That being said, should they make that trade is another question. I think we saw about the worst-case scenario in trading depth for an aging star in Russell Westbrook, but they’d be doing it for someone in their prime this time. Are the Lakers about to risk it in a very similar way again?

Personally, I feel this team should be given time to show what it can do when healthy. I wouldn’t shake the roster up and would give this core the first half of next year to see if injuries were the big factor in this season, because I think they were.

But it’s not my job on the line if I’m wrong.

There was a recent report regarding D'lo and his free agency. He wants to remain a Lakers player. Outside of him taking a paycut I don't see that happening if LBJ remains on the team with his contract.
If he does walk do we try and sign Dinwiddie and hope that Fino or Vincent can step up or do we see a world where we keep Bron and just let everyone walk not named Max Christie of those who have player options and or expiring contracts and just build out from a core of Rui, Reaves, AD, Max, Vincent, Vando, Fino and Bron and vet min contracts.

I do see D’Angelo Russell opting out after this season as he’s earned himself a lot of money this year. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion he and the Lakers don’t have a future together.

For one, he wants to remain a Laker. And that wasn’t a one-off comment. His vibe all season was of someone really enjoying their time with this team.

In addition, if the Lakers allow him to walk, they cannot replace him. That doesn’t open up cap space. They’d still be a team over the cap. Losing him for nothing is a tough pill to swallow.

As mentioned, the Lakers' star-chasing actions matter, too. If they trade for Young, for example, bringing back D’Lo doesn’t make a lot of sense. If it’s Mitchell, though, then you could see a scenario where those two play together.

There will be many moving pieces, but if I were a betting man, I’d lean toward D’Lo being on this roster next year.

If he does walk, I don’t think they make a move to sign someone as a result, mainly because they won’t have the cap room to do that. Plus, they already have Austin Reaves, Cam Reddish, Gabe Vincent and Jalen Hood-Schifino under contract and Max Christie as a restricted free agent.

That’s a guard rotation they have a lot invested in. You probably look to bring in a veteran’s minimum guard, perhaps, but not much else.

Can we compare coaching statistics wherever possible? Success of plays after timeouts, ability to generate open looks within the system, successful challenges, etc.
Might have to collate different data points, but I'd like to see stats that confirm or refute the idea that Ham is no good

I would happily share this information and statistics if they were publicly available. Unfortunately, they probably exist behind some Second Spectrum wall and we don’t have access to them.

Big thanks to all for the questions this week. Be on the lookout for next week’s mailbag post to see your questions answered!


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