The Los Angeles Lakers have already made a ton of moves to start NBA free agency, from re-signing restricted free agent Rui Hachimura, to adding Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish. The biggest dominoes left to fall for the team are now Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.
There has been little noise around the latter other than that the team is still hoping to re-sign him, and the atmosphere around Reaves has been similarly quiet. It turns out there is a reason for that, though: The Lakers have put their best offer on the table for Reaves already, and he and his camp are waiting to see if the market can give them more.
According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic during an appearance on Fox 11, the Lakers tendered Reaves the maximum offer they’re allowed to give him in the opening minutes of free agency, and he is just waiting to see if another team comes in with an offer sheet for the Lakers to match that could give him a substantial raise:
“The Lakers made an offer for four years, $52 million, the most they can offer Austin, when free agency began. But he’s taking his time and evaluating the market. I think Houston was a potential suitor, they obviously just signed Fred VanVleet to the first max contract of the offseason, so I think you can probably check them off. San Antonio is the other one I reported had been interested in Austin, so I think it’s just a matter of him waiting out the market for a day or two, seeing if someone is going to offer him a bigger contract than the Lakers can, and if not, signing that max from L.A.
“The Lakers control Austin’s destiny and from everything I’ve been told they’re going to match any contract he signs.”
It’s worth noting that while four years, $52 million is the most the Lakers are allowed to offer Reaves outright, they can still match any offer he receives from another team, offers that legally could climb as high as four years and $100 million. So if Austin could potentially double his salary for the next four years by waiting a few days, it’s understandable he and his representatives would try to do so while we all wait and see how the free agency market continues to shake out.
The other thing that may be slowing the market for Reaves — in addition to the Lakers’ constant insistence they will match any offer — is the reality that Reaves can’t even officially sign an offer sheet until Wednesday, July 5 at 9:01 p.m. PT. While teams can agree to terms on an offer sheet or standard contract before then, they can’t be legally signed until that time.
For restricted free agents like Reaves, that leads to a natural market cooling and them standing lower in free agency prioritization, because not only could he potentially just tie up a team’s cap space for 24 hours before the Lakers match — and Dave McMenamin of ESPN is reporting that the Lakers will use every single one of those minutes to inconvenience any team that offers Reaves — but if Reaves’ agreement with a team leaks now, it could potentially take said team out of the market for their contingency plans for days.
When every minute counts as teams scramble for the same pool of players in free agency, all of those factors can hold up restricted free agents for a while, especially when you combine them with the Lakers likely just matching anyway, making teams less sure it’s worth even going to the trouble.
(As an aside, this is why restricted free agency sucks as a concept and costs good young players money they’ve rightfully earned on the free market, but I digress)
Long story short, as everyone has said all along, the odds are still on Reaves returning to the Lakers. We — and his camp — just may have to wait a few days to see how much he’ll be returning for.
For all the latest on NBA free agency, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers free agency rumors tracker. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.