As the Lakers closed out Sunday’s loss, their sixth-straight and 10th in the last 12 games, one typically regular member of the rotation remained planted on the bench once again. After not playing on Friday against the Pelicans, Reaves received a DNP-CD for a second straight game against the Nuggets.
It’s the first time this season Reaves has been healthy and has not played in back-to-back games. In fact, the two games are one of the only times this year at all that Reaves has been healthy and hasn’t played.
After establishing himself as one of the few positive role players this season, Reaves being benched back-to-back games is a bit of a shock. He has been struggling shooting the ball of late, which partly explains his benching as head coach Frank Vogel discussed following Sunday’s game.
“Little bit of everything,” Vogel said. “Austin’s played really well for us this year. When you’re losing as much as we’re losing, you got to look at different things. He has struggled shooting the ball of late and he has shown, some nights, a little bit of rookie fatigue, if you want to call it that. I don’t have a lack of confidence in him but we looked at Avery (Bradley) as a change-up. He played really well the other night and he’s getting those minutes now.”
In the 18 games prior to being benched, Reaves was shooting just 40.9% from the field and, more alarmingly, 27.3% from the 3-point line. Perhaps it’s the Rookie Wall, perhaps it’s opposing NBA teams finally taking Reaves seriously and game-planning for him, perhaps it’s a little of column A and a little of column B.
Reaves has taken a noticeable step back in production, though. Over the last 12 games, Reaves’ net rating of -18 is the worst on the team. Considering that he still has the best individual net rating for the entirety of the season on the Lakers at +1.3, it shows just how bad the last handful of weeks has been.
Realistically, benching Reaves isn’t a decision that is unjustifiable. However, the players playing over him make it a tougher pill to swallow. Avery Bradley, despite his strong shooting the last two games, is a player that very well may not be in the NBA next season. Good results does not absolve one of bad process.
Unfortunately, though, Reaves appears to have run out of gas after having so much asked of him — an unrealistic amount for an undrafted rookie — throughout the season. The good news is he showed plenty to give the Lakers optimism that this recent stretch is just a slump and he can be a productive role player of the team moving forward.