The Detroit Pistons ALMOST drafted Austin Reaves in the 2021 NBA Draft. Can we all take a moment to thank them? Can we all take a quick second out of our day to show some appreciation to the basketball draft gods? Austin Reaves has been an absolute revelation from the moment he came on board with the Los Angeles Lakers
Reaves split his four collegiate seasons between Wichita State and Oklahoma and showcased continued improvement as a scorer and playmaker across all four years. Despite a strong senior campaign with the Sooners, he just never really developed the type of draft buzz he would have hoped for. And obviously, he took that personally. Despite receiving a two-way contract after going undrafted, Reaves has played a grand total of zero G League minutes since his initiation into the association.
After a seemingly quiet 2021 summer league, it was a bit of a surprise when Rob Pelinka converted his two-way to a standard NBA contract prior to his rookie season. More often times than not it takes rookies (let alone undrafted rookies) time to earn the trust of their teammates and colleagues. It did not take long for Reaves to earn not only the trust but the respect of his teammates.
Heading into his rookie season with the Lakers, he was not expected to have a prominent spot in the rotation. Injuries across the roster and disappointing play from some of the veteran wings (Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza) forced Frank Vogel to rely heavily on AR very quickly as the team got off to a tumultuous start in 2021-2022. Looking back on his steadiness as a rookie, one could now look back and substitute the word “forced” to “allowed” in the previous sentence.
The numbers were not spectacular in year one. Where Reaves distinguished himself from many of the other rookies in his class was with his IQ on the court. He seemed to always make the right play from the start and shocked many with his instincts on the defensive end. Reaves was among the league leaders in charges drawn as a rookie.
Scoring points is a great way to get the attention, but doing the dirty work is an even better way to gain the trust of your peers. Throughout his first season, it was clear that at the very least he had a future in the league as a glue guy. In the season finale, he provided evidence of a potentially even higher ceiling.
Austin Reaves continued to blossom for the Lakers in year two.
Year two has only further supported that case. He has provided his normal intelligence on both ends of the court since the start of the season, but his confidence on the offensive side has been night and day when comparing this season to last.
His 3 point percentage has jumped from a measly 31.7% as a rookie to a solid 39.8% as a sophomore. As frightening as that improvement may appear to defenders closing out on him, his craftiness with the ball in his hands should be an even larger concern. Once Reaves makes his move towards the basket, he has more than evidenced his ability to stop on a dime and pull up without warning.
Or get his teammates an easy bucket. Or get all the way to the rim and finish through contact.
So, what exactly is Reaves ceiling? Is he a high-level role player on a championship team? Can he develop into a consistent 20-point-per-game scorer? There are a ton of questions in regard to what exactly he can become, but there are none in regard to what he is.
Reaves has quickly ascended from underdog to someone to seriously keep an eye on across the entire league. He is someone that can be counted on by a head coach to give his all and do the right things on the court. He just understands how to play the game the right way. And while that may never translate to full-fledged stardom, he is obviously someone that you want on your team and in your corner.
Keep going, AR-15.