The biggest storyline surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers entering the offseason was Austin Reaves‘ restricted free agency. Reaves played a huge part in the Lake Show making it to the Western Conference Finals and as a result, was increasing his value in free agency in the process.
Los Angeles could only sign Reaves to a deal just over $60 million but had the ability to match any other deal he signed, which could have gone up to as much as $100 million. At the very least, it seemed likely that another team would sign Reaves to the max offer sheet solely to make the Lakers pay more.
But as NBA free agency got underway more and more teams spent big money and the potential suitors for Reaves dwindled. And when the dust finally settled, the purple and gold were able to re-sign Reaves to a four-year, $56 million contract.
Lakers’ Austin Reaves signing is the best move of NBA free agency
There were bigger names that moved throughout the league and other teams like the Houston Rockets will feel good about signing an external free agent like Fred VanVleet. But when the dust settles, it will be abundantly clear that this is the best move of the entire summer.
First is the fact that the Lakers somehow avoided the impossible. LA was always going to match whatever Reaves signed for but it seemed extremely unlikely that the team would be able to keep Reaves without matching someone else’s deal.
Even if a team didn’t want Reaves (which is silly as he is a great role player), it could have offered Reaves the max so that the Lakers would be paying him like a superstar in years three and four. Why a Western Conference foe like the San Antonio Spurs didn’t do this is beyond all of us.
But then you consider the type of player Reaves is and the going price for other free agents. While some pundits like Colin Cowherd beg to differ, Reaves is a legitimate difference-maker that can be special in this league. In the second season of his career, after going undrafted, Reaves averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists on .464/.443/.895 shooting in the playoffs.
Reaves’ average annual salary is $14 million. Cameron Johnson, another restricted free agent, is making $27 million per year; Kyle Kuzma is making $25.5 million per year; Jerami Grant is making $32 million per year.
There are steals and then there are highway robberies. This is a highway robbery and for some reason, the rest of the league just sat around and let it happen.