The Los Angeles Lakers come into the 2024 NBA Playoffs with a little bit of momentum. After hovering around the 9-11 range for most of the season, they used strong play, and a little help from teams ahead of them, to surge into the 7-8 range in the waining days of the regular season. As the Lakers get set to open the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, backup guard Gabe Vincent could be the X-factor.

The Lakers came into the postseason needing a win in the play-in tournament to advance to the first round. Although the Lakers were the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings, they took care of business against the New Orleans Pelicans to move up to the No. 7 seed and a rematch with the Nuggets.

Last season, the Lakers used a surprising run to reach the Western Conference Finals where they squared off against the Nuggets. It resulted in a 4-0 sweep for the Nuggets who ultimately went on to win the NBA title. The Lakers are hoping that this time around, things might be a little different.

A big part of the Lakers turnaround this season was the insertion of Rui Hachimura back into the starting lineup and Darvin Ham settling on a rotation. Hachimura has the potential to be the Lakers’ X-factor this series, but there’s another player who could fit that bill a bit better in Gabe Vincent.

Vincent missed the majority of the 2023-24 season due to injury, but he’s since made his return to the lineup and has already made an impact on the court.

Gabe Vincent could shine for the Lakers against the Nuggets

One thing about Gabe Vincent is that he’s already faced this Nuggets team as a member of the Miami Heat during last year’s NBA Finals. He was the starting point guard for the Heat. He’s coming off the bench for the Lakers, but he’s already made his presence felt.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Gabe Vincent (7) reacts in the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans in a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

During the Lakers win against the Pelicans in the play-in, Vincent came off the bench to finish with nine points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal in 18 minutes. He shot 3-6 from the field, all three pointers. He only was able to appear in 11 games for the team this season.

During those 11 games, he averaged 3.1 points per game, 0.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists with splits of 30.6 percent shooting from the field, 10.7 percent shooting from the three point line and 50 percent shooting from the free throw line. Obviously his injury issues had a lot to do with his decreased shooting efficiency.

Vincent had a breakout year with the Heat last season and that players is more on par with who he is rather than his small sample size with the Lakers so far. What the team needs from him against the Nuggets is consistent three point shooting and defense.

One of the main things the Nuggets have been criticized for is having poor depth compared to last season’s team. It’s arguable that the Lakers have superior depth to the Nuggets. Vincent could be a big reason why. Last year the Lakers struggled to consistently knock down three point shots. Vincent can help in that aspect.

He can also spend time guarding Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray. The Lakers had no answer for him last season and while there is no stopping him directly, Vincent can perhaps slow him down a bit and make things hard for him.