The biggest storyline surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers entering the summer was Austin Reaves‘ restricted free agency. While the Lakers had the ability to match any deal, other NBA teams with cap space had the opportunity to make the Lakers pay with an offer sheet of around $100 million.
That ultimately did not happen as Los Angeles was able to retain Reaves at an excellent price. Reaves signed a four-year, $53.8 million contract that has just a $12 million cap hit this season. If Reaves continues to develop, he will quickly become one of the best-valued players in the NBA.
Reaves is a true playoff guy and Los Angeles should be looking to add more players like him to the roster. There is the opportunity to sign another hidden gem undrafted rookie this year, but that will take time to turn into another Reaves situation.
However, the Lakers theoretically could add another player similar to Reaves at some point during the 2023-24 season. It will take time, and some patience, but there is a world in which LA can add the player who Reaves has been compared to via the buyout market — Gordon Hayward.
How the Lakers can add Gordon Hayward to pair with Austin Reaves
Hayward is entering the last year of his contract with the Charlotte Hornets and is set to make $31.5 million this season. With one of the worst rosters in the league, Charlotte is going to be a leading tank candidate come 2024 and is going to look to get rid of any asset it can.
Hayward’s contract is expensive but it has value as an expiring deal. Another team looking to get off a multi-year deal would likely send an asset in return for Hayward with the sole intent of buying him out and saving money. That would make him free to sign on the open market, opening the door for the Lakers.
Reaves has been compared to a young Hayward for his ability to create his own shot, take players off the dribble and space the floor as an off-ball option. Reaves and Hayward have similar play-making abilities and have similar athletic profiles as well.
In the playoffs this year Reaves averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 36.2 minutes per game (at 24 years old). In his age-24 season, Hayward averaged 19.3 points, 4.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 34.4 minutes per game. If Reaves wasn’t the third scoring option, he would have averaged as much if not more than Hayward.
While Hayward has become a sunk cost because of his contract, he still has value as a rotational wing that can provide a spark off the bench. This would allow the Lakers to always have a Reaves-like presence on the court, which can make the roster much more flexible for Darvin Ham.
The team is definitely going to leave the door open for a buyout signing whether that be leaving the 15th roster spot open or signing someone to a non-guaranteed deal. When the time comes, that last addition could be Gordon Hayward.