We already knew that Lakers rookie Austin Reaves had turned down the opportunity to get picked in the 2021 NBA Draft because he preferred the opportunity to join the Lakers on a two-way contract. But today, courtesy of Reaves himself, we did learn the name of at least one team he turned down in his quest to get to Los Angeles: The Detroit Pistons.
Reaves told the draft night story during an appearance on his summer league teammate Vic Law’s podcast, “94 & More” (emphasis mine):
“The night before, the Lakers had called, and said if for some reason I go undrafted, that they wanted to be the first place that said ‘hey, we’ve got a two-way for you.’ And so going into the draft we knew that I was gonna have a two-way contract in L.A., so we were in a good place with contract stuff and things like that.
“So going into the draft we didn’t really press. I think Detroit called at like 41 or 42 (Editor’s Note: The Pistons had the 42nd pick), whichever pick they had, and were like ‘we’ll take him on a two-way,’ and it was really just more a situation where I wanted to be where we saw the best fit.”
Reaves and his agent clearly felt like that spot was Los Angeles (and not Detroit), which is why they told the Pistons not to draft him, and he promptly signed a two-way deal with the Lakers after the conclusion of the draft.
So far, their gamble is looking pretty smart, as Reaves impressed enough over the totality of summer league and the offseason to earn a promotion from a two-way deal to the team’s 14th guaranteed contract. By virtue of that two-year contract, he will — much like Alex Caruso did with the Lakers before him — have a chance to hit free agency and cash in earlier in his NBA lifecycle than a drafted player who played well would.
Reaves and his representation clearly believed he could show enough to make up for any financial risk they took by going undrafted, and so far that faith has been rewarded with one guaranteed contract already. If Reaves can continue to impress as his career continues, their choice will look better and better in retrospect.
And that’s without even factoring in that he gets to live in Los Angeles while figuring it all out.