NBA reporter offers insight on Austin Reaves’ future with Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves began his NBA career as an undrafted free agent in 2021. Less than two years later, he could be one of the most coveted NBA free agents this summer.

Reaves, who turns 25 on May 29, signed a two-way contract with Los Angeles in August 2021 and then received a standard NBA contract a month later. He made his NBA debut on Oct. 22 against the Phoenix Suns, carving out a role in the Lakers’ rotation as a rookie.

After averaging 23.2 minutes per game, shooting 45.9 percent from the field, Reaves’ playing time increased to 29 minutes per game in the first half of the 2022-’23 season. After the Lakers traded Russell Westbrook, it created a bigger role for Reaves and he became the Lakers’ third-best player.

Related: NBA teams expected to offer Austin Reaves more than Lakers can afford

Reaves closed out the regular season averaging 16.5 points and five assists per game, while shooting 57.7 percent from the field in the final 27 contests. Los Angeles kept him in the starting lineup for the NBA playoffs and he’s been one of their most consistent contributors.

  • Austin Reaves playoff stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.6 RPG, 45.9% FG, 44.2% 3PT, .138 WS/48

However, Reaves’ contract is expiring after the end of the season and there are already multiple NBA teams interested in signing him. While there are increasing rumors that another team will outbid Los Angeles for Reaves, it now appears the Lakers won’t let that happen.

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ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the Hoop Collective podcast that the Lakers won’t let Reaves leave in NBA free agency, in part because of what happened with Alex Caruso.

“There’s no way they’re letting him walk. Because they absolutely had egg dripping from their chin on letting Alex Caruso walk. And Reaves, let’s just be honest, he’s their third-best player.”

Brian Windhorst on Austin Reaves’ future with Los Angeles Lakers

Caruso played a similar role for the Lakers from 2019-’21. When he hit the open market, he told Los Angeles he was willing to sign a two-year deal worth $20 million. It was a lower offer than what the Chicago Bulls proposed to him – $36.9 million over four years – but the Lakers turned him down. This past season, Caruso made the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers’ Austin Reaves likely to land massive contract this summer

  • Austin Reaves stats (2022-’23): 13 PPG, 3.4 APG, 52.9% FG, 39.8% 3PT, .142 WS/48

The difficulty for the Lakers will be retaining their role players around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If Los Angeles intends to match whatever offer Reaves receives, it might cost them D’Angelo Russell and Lonnie Walker IV.

However, given the criticism they received for letting Caruso depart in 2021, it’s reasonable to expect the Lakers to match any offer Reaves receives.

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