He was a starter on day one of the season for the Lakers but quickly fell out of head coach Darvin Ham’s good graces due to poor play.
Gone were the electrifying plays of the year before and instead, we saw Reaves struggling with his shot, being forced into turnovers and standing out for all the wrong reasons.
The struggles continued and he was relegated to the bench, but he’s finally starting to find his stride. In December, he averaged 17 points, 4.1 rebounds, and five assists per game in his 28.7 minutes of play.
These performances have made him the team’s leading scorer off the bench and have not gone unnoticed by LeBron James, who praised Reaves postgame following the Lakers’ loss to the Pelicans.
“Austin’s great. Austin’s great,” James said. “I like Austin no matter where he is. Obviously, it’s always great to be on the floor with him, no matter if he’s coming off the bench or if he’s starting or whatever. I just love being on the floor with him. He makes plays. It’s always good.”
Reaves being closer to his best gives the Lakers a player they can rely on nightly not named James or Anthony Davis. He only started one game since being benched, but if he continues playing at this high a level and the team stays around .500, it may force Ham to give Reaves another shot with the starting five.
Starting isn’t the end all be all. You need a deep, reliable bench to go far into the playoffs, but with Reaves making the fifth-highest salary and based on last year’s production, it’s likely Reaves will be starting consistently again sooner rather than later.
For now, Reaves needs to continue playing well and build chemistry with James and Davis. This team might look very different after the trade deadline, but one thing is sure, where you play and how long you play will be largely predicated on your fit alongside James and Davis. So far, Reaves seems to fit with those two stars quite well.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.