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Austin Reaves will reportedly get the start in Russell Westbrook’s absence

The Lakers are banking on Austin Reaves to help spark their first win of the regular season.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers will keep the three-guard lineup alive even without Russell Westbrook available against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

Per reporting from Shams Charania, Austin Reaves will fill in for Westbrook alongside Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. Reaves practiced with the starters on Tuesday and could be in the first unit going forward. On “The Rally”, Charania said, “This is very much a move that the Lakers could continue, depending on how tonight’s game goes.”

Reaves started 19 games a year ago and has the most (or only) experience playing next to LeBron and AD of the healthy Lakers guards, since Dennis Schröder is out with a thumb injury. LeBron and Reaves shared the floor for 685 minutes in 2021-22, and AD and Reaves played together for 273 minutes.

Collectively, the trio was on the court for 75 minutes together last season, with the Lakers plus-2 in those minutes. LeBron, AD, and Reaves have already played together for 14 minutes over three games to start this season, and the Lakers have won those minutes by six.

Reaves has had a slow shooting start to the season, making 2-of-7 threes, though his 28.6 percent success rate is higher than the team as a whole. However, the Lakers are confident with what he brings defensively, and he’s generally performed better next to the team’s stars than when asked to assume a larger role — his triple-double in Game 82 of last season against these very Nuggets being an obvious exception to that pattern.

Denver is generally one of the bigger teams in the league on the wing, which would ordinarily make it challenging for Reaves to step into the starting five. However, with 6’10 Michael Porter Jr. unavailable for this matchup and 6’4 Bruce Brown likely to take his place, Reaves is more suited to handle that assignment at his size.

Incidentally, this is the preferred starting lineup that four members of our staff picked in our preseason roundtable. Hopefully, that level of consensus isn’t just groupthink and instead an indicator that Reaves brings something to the table that validates his selection over a true wing like Juan Toscano-Anderson or Troy Brown Jr. The Lakers don’t have time to waste, and Reaves is about to experience trial by fire against one of the best teams in the west.

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