If the Lakers have done one thing exceedingly well throughout the last decade regardless of the on-court results, it’s been scouting and finding hidden gems. More specifically, they’ve made a habit of finding key rotation players outside of the first round of the draft.
Even for all the roster turnover in recent seasons, the Lakers roster features a pair of second round picks in Thomas Bryant and Max Christie and an undrafted signee in Austin Reaves. It’s that last player that has drawn plenty of attention this season.
Reaves had fine rookie season in the league and has parlayed that with offseason work into a sophomore campaign in which he has been one of the team’s best players. But in what has become a bit of a recurring issue for the Lakers, Reaves is set for restricted free agency this summer.
It’s been the quiet hum in the background of Reaves’ breakout season. He’ll be set for a payday at the end of the season and given the Lakers’ hesitancy to pay up for players — like Alex Caruso — and go deeper into the luxury tax if a competitive offer was made — like it was with Alex Caruso — then there could be some concern that he could walk at season’s end...like Alex Caruso did.
On a recent episode of the Late Night Lake Show podcast, Jovan Buha of The Athletic offered a peek behind the curtain of what free agency could entail for Reaves and the Lakers.
“From what I’ve heard on that, it’s going to be more than Caruso money, that’s for sure. It’s going to be double digits.”
For reference, the deal that Caruso signed with the Bulls was a 4-year, $36,980,000 contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $9.25 million per year. The “double digits” part would likely mean it’s going to be at least $10 million dollars.
Now, before the panic sets in, it would be very, very unlikely the Lakers lose him this summer because of the Gilbert Arenas Rule. Simplified, the Arenas rule limits how much an opposing team can offer a non-first round pick in free agency, helping teams keep players they drafted or signed as undrafted free agents without being outbid.
It’s the same rule that helped keep the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker and Jordan Clarkson in Los Angeles for their first contracts. THT’s contract was a three-year deal worth just over $30 million while Clarkson’s deal back in 2016 was a 4-year deal coming in at just over $50 million.
That feels like the general range of what Reaves’ deal could look like, landing somewhere in AAV between THT and Clarkson. And if that’s the range, I would imagine the Lakers would sign up for that given how impactful he has been on this team.
The important note is that the Lakers fully control whether he stays with the team, and the only way they don’t bring him back is if they just fully do not want him on the team and won’t even make a halfway competitive offer. And even that feels like a low bar for this Lakers front office.