The 2021 NBA Draft class is already emerging as a standout cohort, particularly at the top, with multiple players that possess All-Star potential. The standout names included Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs. The 2021 draft was similar to this year’s in that top-ten picks opted for unconventional routes to the NBA, exemplified by the likes of Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. In hindsight, this draft class also had many hidden gems. Second-round or undrafted players from this class include Alperen Sengun, Herbert Jones, and the Lakers’ Austin Reaves.
Two years later, with more information, the question arises: If the draft were held today, where would these players be selected?
This article explores this intriguing question, specifically focusing on Austin Reaves‘ impact on the Lakers and his re-draft landing spot.
Austin Reaves’ background
Interestingly, the Detroit Pistons had their sights set on him with the No. 42 overall pick. However, he made a bold career move, opting to pursue his path as an undrafted free agent instead. His gamble paid off handsomely as he joined forces with the Lakers. This decision showcased his self-belief and determination to carve his own path.
Reaves is getting a ton of recognition, primarily through his impact on the Lakers’ Western Conference Finals run and his performance on Team USA.
He took his game to another level last season with the Lakers, where he averaged 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game on 53/40/86 shooting splits in 28.8 minutes per game; this was a significant increase from Reaves’ rookie season, where he averaged 7.3 points per game.
Austin Reaves’ impact on the Lakers
Reaves embraced a lead playmaking role alongside LeBron James, which became more pronounced towards the latter part of the previous season after the Lakers’ trade deadline moves. The departure of Russell Westbrook played a pivotal role in expanding his responsibilities, and he took advantage of the opportunity.
This heightened role transitioned into the playoffs, where his performance remained exceptional. During that postseason, he averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game, boasting 46/44/90 shooting splits.
Beyond his elite shooting skills, Reaves excels at driving and creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Because of this, he perfectly complements LeBron’s game. Now that LeBron is 38, someone like Reaves is even more crucial to have on the roster to take some of that playmaking burden off of him as the secondary facilitator and offense initiator.
Additionally, Reaves’ highly efficient shooting makes him an excellent floor spacer who can knock it down when LeBron finds him on open looks. Simply put, Reaves gives the Lakers offense another dimension they lacked before.
Re-drafting the 2021 NBA Draft
No. 1: Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham
Original pick: Cade Cunningham
Cade Cunningham retains the No. 1 overall selection in the re-draft. A 6-foot-7 point guard who can do it all, he should only continue to get better as he bounces back from the left shin injury that limited him to 12 games last season.
No. 2: Houston Rockets – Evan Mobley
Original pick: Jalen Green
Evan Mobley gets the nod at No. 2 to the Rockets in large part due to already being one of the league’s best defenders and a franchise piece to build around.
No. 3: Cleveland Cavaliers – Scottie Barnes
Original pick: Evan Mobley
2021 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes goes to the Cavaliers at No. 3. His productivity took a minor step back last season when some were expecting another leap. Nonetheless, his ability to defend and get teammates involved contributes significantly to winning.
No. 4: Toronto Raptors – Franz Wagner
Original pick: Scottie Barnes
Franz Wagner’s shooting and length would be a great addition to the Raptors’ lineup while preserving their versatility.
No. 5: Orlando Magic – Jalen Green
Original pick: Jalen Suggs
Jalen Green is already an elite scorer with All-Star potential, making him an excellent addition to the Magic, who still need a reliable shooting guard.
No. 6: Oklahoma City Thunder – Josh Giddey
Original pick: Josh Giddey
Josh Giddey remains the pick to the Thunder at No. 6 – he’s been a perfect fit within their system as they emphasize quick decision-making and ball movement. Given his positional size and well-rounded game, a case could be made for Giddey to go higher than six.
No. 7: Golden State Warriors – Trey Murphy III
Original pick: Jonathan Kuminga
Trey Murphy III goes to the Warriors at seven. His length, defense, and shooting make him an elite complementary piece anywhere, especially within the Warriors’ system predicated on moving without the ball and getting shooters open.
No. 8: Orlando Magic – Austin Reaves
Original pick: Franz Wagner
Then, there’s Austin Reaves going No. 8 to the Orlando Magic. As technically an undrafted free agent, Reaves makes by far the biggest climb in the 2021 NBA re-draft. He’s already made tremendous strides in the league, from someone fighting for an NBA roster spot to earning a Team USA roster spot in two seasons. It’s a testament to his skill set, confidence, and work ethic.
Reaves’ NBA status has skyrocketed, going from a feel-good story to someone who could legitimately be an All-Star or a third piece on a contender. It’ll be exciting to watch Reaves take that next jump with the Lakers next season, having an entire season of a bonafide playmaking role as well as coming off his valuable Team USA experience.
Many of these players are interchangeable depending on personal preference. If we do this re-draft after next season, a top-five selection for Reaves isn’t out of the question. Nonetheless, the 2021 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a talented class, and Reaves is now significantly contributing to that.