With respect to the Los Angeles Lakers, it is admittedly difficult to find the right combination of words. The team is essentially the equivalent of a sinking ship, for they are not playing a good brand of basketball at the moment.
Certainly, it is safe to say that the Lakers’ latest loss to the Denver Nuggets is a new low point for the squad. The purple and gold got hammered harder than one of Thor’s enemies, leading to Magic Johnson calling out the group’s lackadaisical effort on social media.
As of when this was written, the team is currently the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. That being said, if the season were to end today, they would have to participate in the play-in tournament in order to secure a playoff berth.
Without a doubt, hardly anyone (if anyone at all) expected the Lakers to be in this position over halfway into the campaign. In other words, the franchise has underwhelmed and has especially gone through a dark patch of late.
Despite the storm the Lakers are trying to weather, there have been a few positives.
One of the biggest surprises on the Lakers has come in the form of rookie Austin Reaves.
While there is nothing too flamboyant about his style of play, Austin Reaves has been a joy to watch all season long. He plays hard on every possession, and what he has contributed has not gone unnoticed by those within the organization.
Granted, the Lakers have been struggling to win ballgames, the 23-year-old rookie has played particularly well in recent memory. For example, head coach Frank Vogel is among those who have been extremely complimentary of Reaves.
Via transcription from Ron Gutterman of Lakers Nation, Vogel illustrated how much of a bright spot Austin has been on the hardwood.
"“He’s playing great, simplest way to put it,” Vogel said of Reaves. “Very confident, very confident in his shooting, when he puts the ball on the deck, he’s got a great computer of reading help and seeing what’s there and he’s a hell of a passer too. So very impressed and pleased with how he’s playing.”"
Anyone who has tuned into Lakers’ basketball this season can attest to what Vogel is saying here. Indeed, Reaves plays with a chip on his shoulder and is thus not lacking in terms of confidence.
However, Vogel’s use of the term “computer” is every bit as noteworthy. Reaves is adept when it comes to dissecting different sequences and oftentimes makes smart decisions. He understands his value and does his part nightly insofar as making winning-type plays.
In fact, Reaves had one of the most impressive performances of his career last weekend against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although it came in what was ultimately a losing effort, the shooting guard played a significant role in causing the Lakers to nearly overcome Memphis.
Reaves made big play after big play in the closing minutes, showcasing that he is not afraid of the limelight. It is an impressive skill considering his minimal experience in the league, nor was it the first time he has put said skill on display this year. At the end of the day, he finished the game with an efficient 16 points off the pine.
Superstar LeBron James has also come to appreciate what Austin brings to the table. Per Gutterman, James recently said the following about the former Wichita State and Oklahoma product.
"“He doesn’t make mistakes. We don’t look for him to score much, but he’s capable of doing it and it’s definitely a huge bonus for us coming off the bench, especially tonight without Melo. Obviously we needed some punch off the bench and he was on time and on target every time we found him.”"
Given that the Lakers have not been the best in the turnovers department this season, it helps that Reaves is a bit of an anomaly. Even though he is only playing about 20 minutes per game, Reaves is only averaging 0.6 turnovers as of now. He is one smart cookie.
Additionally, per LeBron’s example, it helps whenever a player can fill in for an injured teammate. Reaves definitely stepped up the other night against the Kings, and it is clear that it caught LeBron’s attention.
When he has been healthy, Reaves has been one of the lone beacons of light for Los Angeles during the 2021-22 season. The couple examples mentioned above furthermore showcase his potential and what he could be for the Lakers going forward.
Provided that the Lakers have been mighty inconsistent, it is nice that the Lakers have someone who is a constant. Assuming Reaves continues to play at this level, there is no denying Vogel will continue to find minutes for the rookie.
Speaking of which, Reaves is the type of basketball talent that coaches love to be around. He truly works his tail off, and it sheds light on why he has penciled his way into the rotation.
The Lakers’ faithful can only hope that Reaves is able to keep it up. He has been a welcome addition to the roster, and, in all likelihood, the best is yet to come for the Lakers’ first-year guard.