Alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the best player to don the purple and gold last season was arguably undrafted breakout Austin Reaves. The Los Angeles Lakers depended on Reaves often throughout both the regular season and their Playoff campaign.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Reaves’ sudden growth comes in a contract year, and he will enter restricted free agency on June 30th.
Reaves averaged 13 points and shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range in his second season in The Association. With an efficient field goal percentage (eFG%) of 61.6, Reaves’ impact on the court played a major role in the Lakers’ trip to the Western Conference Finals as a seventh seed.
The Lakers will surely look to bring Reaves back for the long haul. He has solidified himself as a starter and fits perfectly next to James and Davis.
A number of teams will hope to steal Reaves away from the Lakers, though. Reaves is only 25 years old and could elevate a number of teams’ ceilings. Most recently, Bleacher Report reported that the Houston Rockets are preparing an offer sheet for the Arkansas native.
The purple and gold clearly recognize the threats across the NBA for Reaves. According to Lakers Nation, Los Angeles used their 17th overall pick on Jalen Hood-Schifino as a possible replacement for Reaves in the outcome that he leaves the City of Angels.
As a restricted free agent, Los Angeles will have the chance to match any deal that Reaves is offered, which guarantees Reaves can remain on the team if the Lakers will spend the money.
Where things get complicated is the tumultuous restrictions coming with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In years past, the Lakers have never been afraid to spend extra money to inch closer to contention; however, the second luxury tax apron will function as a near-hard cap and halt any growth for teams that exceed that threshold.
Could Jalen Hood-Schifino fill Austin Reaves’ shoes on the Lakers?
In Hood-Schifino’s rookie season, becoming the next Austin Reaves is an unrealistic expectation. That might be exactly what is expected, though, as the Lakers cannot afford to waste another year of LeBron’s tenure.
With time Hood-Schifino could develop into a similar archetype as Reaves. Both guards have a similar build and can score at a high level. Last season on the Indiana Hoosiers, Hood-Schifino only knocked down 33 percent from beyond the arc with a 46.3 eFG%. Hood-Schifino does not have the fully realized arsenal that Reaves has. Both players are steady defenders, but Reaves is a much more complete offensive threat.
As soon as next season, his role on the Lakers will be minimal compared to Reaves’ 28.8 minutes per game in the starting five.
In short, the Lakers need to place Reaves as a top priority this offseason next to Rui Hachimura. Both players were critical pieces of the Lakers’ success, and losing either one would be a major setback – something that cannot be afforded with LeBron James’ own free agency possibly upcoming next summer.
Jalen Hood-Schifino is a talented and high-potential pick for Los Angeles, but losing Reaves now would be an unforgettable mistake this summer. As Marc Stein noted, the Lakers appear to be ready to match any offer that Reaves gets, including the maximum $100 million, 4-year contract.
Rather than replacing Austin Reaves, Hood-Schifino can complement his play style and give the Lake Show another Reaves-esque talent off of the bench as the team looks toward the Finals once again.