One of the many reasons Austin Reaves’ rookie season with the Lakers was unexpected was because of the way he played while staying productive. In his final season at Oklahoma, Reaves had a usage rate of 27.7% and played as a primary ballhandler.
In his first season in the NBA, Reaves played much, much more off the ball, finishing with a usage rate of just 12.4%. And yet, he was still more than capable of making an impact, a testament to how well he adapted and his overall skillset and hard work.
But Reaves is capable of more and he’s hopeful to be able to show that in the future. When speaking with Lakers Nation’s Trevor Lane and Matt Peralta, Reaves talked about his ability to be a ballhandler and whether it’s something he wants to do moving forward in the NBA.
“I love it. There’s only probably two years in my basketball career where I wasn’t a point guard. I’ve always been a one that likes to get others involved and, like you said, initiate offense. But, at the end of the day, I do what I’m asked. If that’s initiate offense, if that’s to dive be the hustle, dive on floors for loose balls, that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to win basketball games and give our team the best chance of doing that.”
In his senior season as a Sooner, Reaves’ usage rate led to him playmaking more. He finished with a career-high assist percentage of 27% and while he did have a career-high turnover percentage of 16%, that number was still only marginally higher than the 14.9% turnover percentage he had in the three combined seasons prior.
Put more simply, his increased playmaking did not come at the cost of increased turnovers. But being a primary ballhandler in college and in the NBA are two vastly different things and it’s understandable why the Lakers may not have wanted to put the ball directly into his hands.
Last season, according to Cleaning the Glass, Reaves played just four percent of his nearly 1400 minutes at the point guard position. Perhaps a season of playing in the NBA and a new head coach could pave the way for more minutes with Reaves as a ballhandler.
Being a point guard in an offense anchored by LeBron James is unlike being a typical NBA point guard, which could lend itself to more playing time for Reaves. One of the big asks of a point guard alongside LeBron is 3-point shooting, a weakness of Reaves’ last season but one he’s committed to improving upon.
Ultimately, Reaves’ potential as a ballhandler could prove to add some versatility to the Lakers’ offense and it could be something he works more on during Summer League if he plays. And that will be a question Darvin Ham and his staff, once assembled, will have to answer next season.