There was effectively no doubt heading into the offseason whether the Laker would retain Austin Reaves. Not only was he a restricted free agent, but the Lakers had made it abundantly clear via various leaks that they would be matching any offer.
They made it so clear to opposing teams that there was no point in putting an offer sheet in front of Reaves that they just simply didn’t do it. The Lakers saved nearly $50 million, because no other team offered him a max deal, instantly making Reaves one of the bargain contracts of the offseason.
In the days after the Lakers agreeing to a deal, the reaction has been that of what a steal the Lakers got. On his own podcast, Brian Windhorst of ESPN spoke about how general managers around the league were reacting to Reaves’ deal with the Lakers.
“By the way, I was talking to somebody in a front office and they said basically, ‘man, we thought that guy was worth $100 million dollars over four years,’ but as far as putting an offer sheet on the table, No. 1 they couldn’t have gone that high anyways, but they also just felt like it was a waste of time because the Lakers would match anything. So teams feeling like the Lakers would match anything ended up saving the Lakers... [$50ish] million.”
In a similar reaction, Dan Woike of the LA Times said people around the league are regarding the contract as a “steal.”
The Reaves contract, four years and $54 million, has been regarded as a steal for the Lakers, the team benefitting from a controlled restricted free agency during which teams with interest in signing Reaves were certain any offer they’d put together would be matched.
The Lakers won’t reap the benefits of their “steal” of a contract until the later years. The first two years of his deal were always going to be the same dollar amount, but the latter two years will be upwards of $20 million cheaper per season.
Now, Reaves has a player option for the final year of his contract that he is absolutely opting out of, but for the three seasons before that, he’s going to be far more productive than his contract, which is going to be a win for the Lakers.
Ultimately, it was a great bit of work from the Lakers front office mixed with some good fortune that led to them one of the best deals of free agency.
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