The biggest storyline hanging above the Los Angeles Lakers offseason in the summer of 2023 was Austin Reaves’ restricted free agency. Los Angeles was able to bring back the fan-favorite on a four-year deal just months after he had a coming-out party in the NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers didn’t just retain Reaves over the summer; the team was able to bring back the former undrafted rookie at a fantastic price. Reaves signed a four-year, $53.8 million contract that has a cap hit of $12 million this upcoming season. As the cap continues to climb and Reaves continues to develop, this deal will only look sweeter and sweeter.
This was seen as a miracle as another team with cap space could have really put the Lakers in a pickle. Reaves could have signed an offer sheet of around $100 million with another team. While the Lakers had the ability to match, this would have put Reaves’ cap hit upwards of $30 million in years three and four. Avoiding that was a gift.
That is why the Reaves deal was one of the best of the entire offseason and somehow, it is still getting even better. Reaves’ Team USA teammate (and former Laker) Josh Hart just signed a contract extension with the New York Knicks which makes the Reaves deal look tiny.
Hart is making over $27 million more than Reaves is on the life of the extension and has an average annual salary that is just under $7 million more. While this is great for Hart, this is also great for the Lakers in hindsight.
Josh Hart’s extension makes Austin Reaves’ contract even better for the Lakers.
Hart is a solid player. He is exactly someone who a contending team should want as part of the rotation. Knicks fans have also taken to Hart in a similar way to how Lakers fans have taken to Reaves. But in comparison to Reaves, this contract looks like an albatross.
And that is not even to say that Hart’s deal is a bad one in the wide scope of the league. There are worse players making more. If anything, it highlights just how exceptional the Reaves contract is for the Lake Show.
Last season Reaves averaged 16.3 points, 4.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. Those numbers only went up when he became a starter and in the playoffs. Hart, meanwhile, averaged 10.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per 36 minutes (with better numbers in New York than Portland).
Hart is the better defender at this point in his career but Reaves also has not been fully unlocked offensively. Reaves looks like he can be the third-best player on a title-winning team, while Hart is a role player in the grander scheme of the league.
There is no doubt that Knicks fans are happy that Hart is returning, as they should be, but Lakers fans should be happy as well as it makes Reaves’ contract look that much sweeter.