The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling and have lost four games straight, but one positive during this stretch is Austin Reaves.
Over the last four games, Reaves has averaged 20.75 points off the bench, energizing the offense and giving the Lakers another ball handler to control the game. He's worked particularly well in pick-and-roll actions with Anthony Davis, scoring off those plays himself or feeding the ball to Davis for an easy finish.
Outside of LeBron, name me another player on this current team that Facilitates and Playmakes on this level.— Stace (@DSTacey1913) March 20, 2023
Austin Reaves has become a Pick & Roll Maestro pic.twitter.com/bKyIo69pvL
So what's caused Reaves to play so well these last four games? He's been on the bench since early November and it's not like he's seen a massive uptick in minutes. Following the Lakers' loss to the Timberwolves, head coach Darvin Ham said it's all about managing Reaves' minutes and keeping him fresh.
"I think where he's at is a good place," Ham said. "It keeps him fresh. Fatigue is not setting in as much. He plays so damn hard to where there are times he's going to be tired. But, for the most part, I think his minutes are efficient, his play is efficient and he's thriving in that reserve role where he can be featured. But also, we can manage his minutes. There's times where we run him in long stretches and we feel awful about it because fatigue makes cowards of us all. We want, as much as possible, try to protect all of our guys from having to experience that and it increases the chance of injury. As much as we can be mindful of the stretches, how long guys play, the more that we can maximize everything that he gives us."
Managing a player's minutes and where they happen is one of a coach's most important jobs. So Ham feeling like he's doing well and getting evidence on the court is encouraging. The temptation will be there to give him another shift and maybe even start him like they did late last season.
Perhaps those things can and should happen, but for now, he's getting exactly what you want from Reaves—an electrifying player positively impacting the court every time they check in.
Following his 20-point performance versus Minnesota, Reaves acknowledged his good form as of late but also made sure to keep the main thing the main thing, which is winning games.
"I feel good," Reaves said. "Confident. Play the game the right way. Game feels in a good spot. Shot feels good. Just being out there on the basketball court feels good. Now, it's just about figuring out how to win these games. That's all that matters to me. I don't care about stats. I don't care about all the notoriety and all that stuff. I just want to win games."
Reaves, since the preseason, expressed only caring about helping LeBron James win a title. It's always been his focus, and he's shown with his actions and words that he's a team player. There are times he's been "him" and other times he's been benched. Through it all, his effort, focus and attitude remain unchanged.
Reaves always gives everything he's got and hopefully, his recent production will start resulting in wins for the Lakers as they try to finish this year strong and head into January as contenders.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.