Austin Reaves unofficially kicked off his Team USA career on Monday night in an exhibition game against Puerto Rico. It was a strong showing off the bench for Reaves, who had nine points and was a first-half spark for the team.
Reaves and Team USA will move on from Las Vegas to Europe and Asia for further scrimmages before landing in the Philippines to start FIBA World Cup play at the end of the month. And as cool and important as this whole experience is on the court, the most important part of Team USA is the recruiting behind the scenes.
Famously, the groundwork for the Heatles was laid with Team USA before LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces. It’s the most famous example but not the only.
So, there are some expectations for Reaves in the coming month. Really, who cares about what happens on the court? If he wants to be a real Laker, it’s time to start recruiting.
No one has tampered better than LeBron, who is a true master at it. If that torch is going to be passed in the post-LeBron years, it’s time to learn if Reaves can bear it. If he’s going to start building relationships for someone to demand a trade to Los Angeles in the coming years, who should be targeting?
Funny you should ask that. Let’s rank them!
11. Bobby Portis
With all due respect to Portis, let’s set our sights a little higher than him here.
10. Cam Johnson
Fresh off a four-year contract with Brooklyn, it’s probably unlikely he’s being dealt. Nor does he have quite the cache to be demanding trades.
9. Walker Kessler
Realistically, it shouldn’t be too hard to recruit someone from Utah to Los Angeles.
8. Jalen Brunson
The idea of Brunson and Reaves as a backcourt together is fine, but I think it’s a requirement to also hire Brunson’s father as an assistant coach, and that might be a bit above Reaves’ pay grade during recruiting.
7. Mikal Bridges
Ideally, Reaves and Bridges come up with a celebration that looks as cool as this that they can then one day do together on the Lakers.
6. Jaren Jackson Jr.
On one hand, JJJ is a terrific young defender. On the other hand, the Lakers already have the best defensive player in the league locked up long-term.
5. Josh Hart
The key to recruiting Josh Hart is to simply give him a high five. He’s been left hanging so many times that a simple return of a high five makes him giddy with excitement.
4. Brandon Ingram
If only there was a recent history of a No. 2 pick returning to have success with the Lakers. Or a Pelicans player coming to the Lakers and winning a title.
3. Paolo Banchero
Reaves can just pick which former Magic big man that won a title with the Lakers and show that to Banchero.
2. Tyrese Haliburton
This one feels a lot easier after seeing Haliburton and Reaves play so well together against Puerto Rico. Plus, I can speak from experience that being in California is substantially better than Indiana.
1. Anthony Edwards
One of the bright young stars of the NBA, the pitch to Ant should be that the Lakers gave up less for Anthony Davis than the Timberwolves did for Rudy Gobert.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.