Austin Reaves has become the biggest fan favorite on the Los Angeles Lakers with the summer of 2023 effectively being the summer of Reaves. It started when Reaves broke out in the 2023 NBA Playoffs as he legitimately looked like the third-best player on a team that made the Western Conference Finals.
It has continued into the summer as Reaves was selected to be a member of Team USA for the FIBA World Cup. At first, Reaves was making headlines for playing well in practice, going from a household name in LA to a household name for any basketball fans.
Then the games started and Reaves continued to impress. Reaves has been one of the best players for Team USA, which includes some of the best young players in the sport. The Lakers guard has proven that he belongs and that he has legitimate all-star potential.
Reaves took the mantle as a fan favorite on the Lakers from another undrafted standout, Alex Caruso. Caruso and Reaves are not similar in their skill sets but their journey from undrafted rookie to standout role player were very similar. On Tuesday morning, Reaves completed his Caruso arc with a putback dunk for Team USA that was eerily similar to an old Caruso highlight.
For those that may not remember the Caruso dunk (which in many ways was his arrival as a legitimate guy, not just a social media meme), let’s enjoy:
Austin Reaves completes his Alex Caruso arc for the Lakers.
Many Lakers fans were devastated when Los Angeles decided to pinch pennies and let Alex Caruso sign with the Chicago Bulls. Caruso himself said that he would be willing to go back to LA for slightly less money but the Lakers didn’t want to deal with the luxury tax payment.
Thankfully, Reaves emerged immediately after Caruso’s absence and softened that blow. Los Angeles also seemingly learned from its mistake with Caruso, as the team seemed willing to do anything to keep Reaves in LA this past offseason.
Let’s be clear: Reaves has probably already surpassed Caruso in terms of importance for a title team. Caruso is one of the best defensive role players in the sport but Reaves is a legitimate scoring threat. The gap in the offensive game between Reaves and Caruso is larger than the gap in the defensive game between the two players.
But to the general NBA public, Caruso still represented the “surprising breakout player” mold for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, Reaves can safely say that he has taken that crown from Caruso. This dunk is the icing on the cake.