Austin Reaves’ emergence creates costly problem for Lakers

Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

After being the last team to get in the win column this season and starting the year with a 2-10 record, it’s safe to say this season for the Los Angeles Lakers has been as polarizing as it gets. While the star players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, have missed several games once again this season, it has been hard to gauge how good this team can be when at full strength.

At the same time, injuries have opened up more opportunities for other players on the roster. One player on the Lakers who has benefited from increased playing time this year is Austin Reaves.

Since the NBA All-Star break, Austin Reaves has played at a very efficient level:

  • 17.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 58.5% FG, 41.9% 3PT, 84% FT

Arguably the most impressive part of the emergence in his game has been his increased ability in drawing fouls. His average free throw attempts per game over this stretch would rank him 12th in the league on average. This includes being above players like De’Aaron Fox, Nikola Jokic, Paul George, and Anthony Edwards.

"“Austin Reaves said that he’s studied film from James Harden and Trae Young to learn how to become better at drawing fouls.”Jovan Buha, Lakers reporter for The Athletic"

But where it could become a problem with the Los Angeles Lakers moving forward is how the off-season is going to shake out. While they have rebounded nicely since the trade deadline, it would be hard to expect a team on the outside looking in for most of the year to have a realistic shot at the NBA championship this season.

However, the chemistry and continuity that has been brewing in this system over the past several weeks is something that could be explored for much of next season. Recent reports have indicated that rather than making a big splash for a name like Kyrie Irving, the Lakers might look to run in back with their core next year.

While the market value on most of their mid-season acquisitions is in the same realm that it was when they were first traded to the team, the development of Austin Reaves makes this a tricky case.

The Lakers will have competition to keep Reaves.

This summer, Reaves is a restricted free agent. Therefore, this means that they can match an offer that another team presents him. However, given that he was not drafted by the Lakers, nor has he been on the team for at least three seasons, they cannot utilize his full Bird Rights in renegotiations given that Reaves has only been on the team since 2021.

According to Spotrac, here are the teams expected to have the most salary cap space for the start of next season:

  1. Houston Rockets = $59.7 million
  2. Utah Jazz = $35.5 million
  3. Indiana Pacers = $25.8 million
  4. San Antonio Spurs = $15.1 million
  5. Detroit Pistons = $13.1 million
  6. Orlando Magic = $9.6 million

Recent rumors have circulated that Reaves’s high level of play as of late could grant him a contract worth up to four years, $50 million. Playing in Texas or Utah could present him an opportunity to play closer to where he went to school, while Indiana and Detroit are closer to where grew up.

Next. Austin Reaves is far more than just a fan favorite for Lakers. dark

It will be difficult for the Lakers to match an offer of that magnitude while keeping other recent acquisitions such as D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. A very similar situation to this played out for the Lakers a couple of seasons ago, as they lost Alex Caruso to the Chicago Bulls. Only time will tell if history chooses to repeat itself or goes in a different direction.