Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that the team was looking to fill its 14th guaranteed spot on the roster before training camp started this week, and on Sunday, they did just that. It just so happened to be with a player that was already joining them in camp anyway: Undrafted rookie Austin Reaves, who will be converted from a two-way contract player to the regular roster.
Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news:
Second year on Austin Reaves’ deal will be a team option, sources said. Lakers have had success developing unheralded players such as Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso and view Reaves -- a 6-foot-5 guard -- in a similar mold. https://t.co/i1IMRiAOg1— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 26, 2021
The Lakers are signing Austin Reaves to a two-year deal with a partial guarantee in year one and a team option in year 2 a source confirms.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) September 26, 2021
Have heard Reaves has been really good in the runs the Lakers have had before training camp. Shams followed up and said second year is team option. Think this is a player friendly deal. If he hits, could get paid sooner than his 2021 draft counterparts. https://t.co/3iHEIXpjOv— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) September 26, 2021
Reaves getting this deal is a bet on himself paying off. He reportedly told teams not to draft him in the second round so that he could choose his own destination, and after a strong showing in Las Vegas Summer League, that confidence in his own abilities has now paid off in a guaranteed deal for a team he chose to play for. Regardless of how high one is on Reaves, this signing, or his game, that’s a cool story for a guy on the fringes of the league.
Reaves averaged 7 points on 29.5% shooting in Las Vegas Summer League — and had a memorable game-winner — in addition to showing a bit more shot-creating ability than expected while thrust into a first-option role he’ll almost assuredly never play for the real team this season. He is the team’s first rookie on a guaranteed contract since Talen Horton-Tucker in 2019-20, as the Lakers went without a rookie on their roster at all during the 2020-21 campaign.
Given how the Lakers handled THT as well as other rookies of Reaves’ pedigree or higher, expect him to still spend a fair amount of time in the G League for the South Bay Lakers this season regardless of the fact that he’s no longer a two-way player. Down there, he’ll get more opportunities to develop than he’s likely to see for a veteran-laden parent squad, while still playing in the same building.
Still, in a long season for an older roster, Reaves may get a chance at some point. At the very least, this deal is an indicator that the Lakers believe in his long-term potential, and is not only a cheap gamble that will let them have an inexpensive flyer to keep Reaves under team control next season if he shows anything, but will also save them money on their luxury tax bill by virtue of Reaves’ status as a player with zero years of experience, making his minimum deal worth less than $1 million a year.
With this move, the Lakers still have two open spots in camp: One for a potential camp invite or 15th guaranteed deal, and one for a player on a two-way contract. However, Pelinka said the team is planning to keep their 15th roster spot open for the buyout market, so don’t expect much movement on anyone besides potential candidates for the two-way slot Reaves’ promotion leaves open.
Expect Reaves’ fellow undrafted rookies Mac McClung and Chaundee Brown (as well as Exhibit 10 signing Cam Oliver) to get a chance to audition for the now-vacant two-way spot in training camp.
This story may be updated with more information as it develops. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.