Austin Reaves is determined to avoid the sophomore slump.
After a surprisingly successful debut campaign that saw Reaves play the sixth-most minutes on the Lakers last year (try naming the top five without looking, it’s surprisingly challenging), the second-year guard has a couple of key areas for improvement in mind for 2022-23.
First up, Reaves knows that he needs to shoot better from the 3-point line, something he identified early in the offseason and has been working on ever since. As Reaves told Jake Fischer on the “Please Don’t Aggregate This” podcast, shooting at a higher clip — and consequently, winning at a higher clip — are atop his list of goals for the upcoming season:
“I just want to play the game the same way as I did last year, you know, give it 110% every possession and then on top of that, just shoot the ball better and win more games. I mean winning is the main thing. That’s what everybody wants to do. That’s what everybody wants us to do. That’s what we want to do. We want to win every game we play, so anything I can do to help the team will win is what I’ll try to do my best.”
Incidentally, Reaves’ commitment to playing as hard as possible may have had unintended consequences on his jumper. As Alex Regla outlined for Silver Screen and Roll earlier this summer, Reaves was shooting an acceptable 39 percent on wide-open threes before the calendar shifted to 2022. In the new year, that number fell to 29.6 percent. Reaves hit a rookie wall because of the total number of games he played, but also because of the effort he expended on the court at all times. Getting stronger and improving his conditioning could have wholesale positive effects on Reaves’ overall game.
Reaves also shared with Fischer an interest in being more of a playmaker in year two, while acknowledging that those opportunities will be limited considering who he plays with:
“I’ve kind of always played point guard position. And, you know, I’m very realistic like when you play on a team with Bron and AD and Russ, like you’re not going to have the ball in your hands, but kind of looking to expand in that category a little bit, being a little bit more of a playmaker alongside those guys, or with the second unit.”
It’s a reasonable goal for Reaves to expand his NBA skillset in a way that builds off his college success, but the Lakers don’t seem to view Reaves in a similar way. On the same day that Reaves expressed his desire to do more playmaking, the Lakers re-signed Dennis Schröder, another guard who will have the ball in his hands. In addition, The Athletic reported that Reaves was in a shooting guard battle with Lonnie Walker IV. Furthermore, Marc Stein tweeted that the Lakers view Reaves as a backup small forward behind LeBron James. Reaves’ wish to play more point guard could not have been more soundly squashed within just a few hours of him making that seemingly innocuous statement.
Of course, point guard minutes could open up if the Lakers rip the bandaid off and finally trade Russell Westbrook, but as it stands, Reaves will have to fit into a different role on this present iteration of the team.
At least half of his goals are in line with what the front office envisions for him; a shooting percentage that good would do wonders for Reaves and the Lakers this year.