The Los Angeles Lakers’ additions at the trade deadline put the team in a position to compete for the NBA playoffs. However, the second-half turnaround from Austin Reaves is one of the biggest reasons why Los Angeles is in the mix for a play-in spot.
Reaves, age 24, wasn’t picked in the 2021 NBA Draft out of Oklahoma. The 6-foot-5 guard signed a two-way contract with the Lakers in 2021, later making his NBA debut in October. After showing glimpses of the ability to become a role player, the Arkansas native is now blossoming in Los Angeles this season.
- Austin Reaves stats (2022-’23): 12 PPG, 3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 117 Defensive Rating
Related: 2023 NBA Draft order
Already averaging career-highs in scoring and assists, Reaves is playing nearly five minutes more per game than he did as a rookie. The Lakers further increased his playing time after the Russell Westbrook trade, resulting in the young guard taking on a bigger role.
Reaves is shooting 58.1 percent from the field and 43.4 percent from the perimeter since Westbrook was dealt out of Los Angeles. He’s also become a fan-favorite and significantly boosted his value ahead of NBA free agency.
Written by experts, for sports fans who want a FREE daily newsletter worth reading. Get Sportsnaut First today!
According to NBA insider Shams Charania, it’s increasingly likely that the marketplace for Reaves starts at a four-year contract worth $50 million total. He is expected to receive significant interest, but Los Angeles can match any offer because he is a restricted free agent.
Related: Los Angeles Lakers’ Austin Reaves could receive ‘poison pill’ offer
The Lakers will have some difficult decisions to make this summer. D’Angelo Russell, Lonnie Walker, Dennis Schroeder and Reaves are all free agents this offseason. Los Angeles must also decide whether to exercise the $16.524 million team option on Malik Beasley, while Rui Hachimura is eligible for an $8.486 million qualifying offer.
- Austin Reaves last 17 games: 15.4 PPG, 4.3 APG, 58.1% FG, 43.4% 3PT
Keeping Reaves would seem like a relatively easy choice for Los Angeles, but the type of offers he’ll receive complicates matters. Just a few years ago, the Lakers declined to match the offer the Chicago Bulls made to Alex Caruso, letting him walk despite his on-court value.
However, reports indicate the Lakers’ front office prefers to run it back in the 2023-’24 season with the same core of players that has led to their second-half turnaround. If that’s the case, Los Angeles will likely match any offer Reaves lands in free agency.
Related: Los Angeles Lakers won’t pursue Kyrie Irving this summer