With former Baby Lakers thriving across the league, the resume for the franchise’s scouting department only continues to grow with each passing year, but one of the newest names on that list — and one Lakers fans may care most about this season — is rookie Austin Reaves.
The undrafted guard’s career has been on a skyrocketing trajectory since training camp, despite being just four months long thus far. But Reaves is not simply a feel-good story, and each passing game makes that more apparent. Because despite being one of the youngest — and certainly the most inexperienced — members of the roster, Reaves is excelling and furthering his hold on a spot in the rotation through the opening weeks of the season.
“He’s been outstanding for us,” Frank Vogel said last week. “On both sides of the ball. Teams think that they can target him, but he really moves his feet well, puts his body in front of the ball, and plays with toughness and scraps in loose-ball situations. He just plays a scrappy brand (of basketball), and offensively, the poise that he plays with offensively is very surprising for a rookie.
“He created a few buckets for us, or at least good situations for us, with his drive-and-kick patience in the paint. Finding somebody else on the back side and it just facilitated a few possessions where we needed a bucket, so he was great for us on both sides of the ball.”
Reaves’ experience in college as a primary scorer — where he averaged 18.3 points on a 27.7% usage rate in his senior season — painted a picture of who he many thought he would be in the NBA. However, Reaves’ ability to do whatever is necessary in any given lineup and be a glue guy has been what’s made him so valuable to the Lakers.
While individual player ratings are a messy stat, Reaves’ net rating of +6.1 is best on the team. Small sample sizes in general make advanced data harder to parse through this early in the season, but Reaves is a part of many of the best lineups and combinations for the Lakers so far.
No Laker pairing has a better net rating than LeBron James and Reaves at +24.0 (sound familiar?). In 10 minutes alongside the Big Three of James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, Reaves has a net rating of +50. With injuries leaving the Lakers shorthanded in the backcourt, Reaves has stepped up off the bench in his new opportunity, and he’s just trying to make the most of it.
“I feel like energy is a real thing. You can feel it,” Reaves said of his approach. “I know my job is to go in and play as hard as possible and try to make an impact and help this team win, and that’s what I try to do.”
Reaves’ own production remains strong as well. While he may be a plus-minus God, he’s also put up more traditional stats that are impressive, too. His effective field goal percentage of 65.9% ranks in the 97th percentile of the league among guards, per Cleaning the Glass. He in the 95th percentile at the rim, in short mid-range looks and in all mid-range shots. And all that is paired with him shooting 38.5% from behind the 3-point line, perhaps the most desired skillset of anyone playing alongside James, Westbrook and Davis.
For the Lakers, Reaves has been a revelation. For Vogel, he’s been outstanding. For the scouting department, he’s been another win. And for Lakers fans, he’s quickly become the team’s new fan favorite.