3. Reaves has improved as a shot-creator and facilitator.
Reaves had been alerted by his international fans’ endearment and obsession, entering the tunnel after Team USA’s win over New Zealand.
“Austin, you’re him!”
He gathered a smile, trailing Anthony Edwards en route to the locker room, as the other USA star turned around and smiled back.
“Austin, you’re him!” Edwards repeated.
It had already been brought to life, prominently, through their brief sweep of a Conference Finals matchup with Denver, but Reaves’ offensive IQ is quite impressive. Through the Lakers’ 16 playoff games, he only failed to record double-digit scoring just once, including a 20.8-point average in their final seven. Where Reaves’ growth was highlighted was his stellar reads and brain on offense.
The Arkansas native showed he could do some carrying of the load in relief of James, facilitating as the initiator. It is unusual for an player undrafted to provide such prowess on that end, let alone for a world-famous franchise surrounded by much pressure. Getting all the way to the West Finals in their turnaround was highly credited to Reaves’ ability to take some off of 38-year-old James and Davis.
Through his FIBA reps, you could sense more confidence with a slick, in-and-out dribble, eager to make some sort of flashy, explosive counter-attack. It would typically hype up the audience, dropping the jaws of many new consumers if there were any Reaves did not already have. There were notable jolts and tools added with his ball-fakes, whether they were driving on the attack or via his pull-up jumpers.
The guards’ playmaking improvements were clearly exhibited. He would find cutters slashing at ease, with a vision that was very much yet to be born, closing out the year in purple and gold. Reaves’ inner Kyrie Irving came about as well, displaying his tremendously improved ball handling via his summer development in that aspect.