The 2023 summer was the summer of Austin Reaves as the recently undrafted guard signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers before representing Team USA in the FIBA World Cup and proving that the hype around him is legit.
There are no doubts heading into the 2023-24 season that Reaves is the third-best player on the Lakers. He is going to be a critical part of the team’s success not just this season but for years to come.
Some NBA fans still haven’t bought into the Reaves hype and think that he is merely a product that is coming out of the Lakers media machine. Those fans couldn’t be any more wrong about Reaves and all it takes is one game watching him to see that something special is there.
People throughout the league are buying in, including the folks over at ESPN. ESPN put together its yearly top 100 players list that is comprised of over 150 different voices. The bottom half of that list has been revealed (100-51) and Reaves notably ranked higher than several big-name players.
ESPN ranks Lakers’ Austin Reaves as the 66th-best player in the NBA
That might seem like a high ranking but it is incredible that Reaves has established himself as a top-70 player in the sport when he was not even one of 60 players who were drafted two years ago. His ascension has been fun to watch and he absolutely deserves to rank this high on the list.
That being said, there are going to be some upset fans who question Reaves’ placement on this list. It isn’t so much about where he ranks but the players that he ranks ahead of. Some notable names below Reaves include:
OG Anunoby, 67th
OG Anunoby might be the most overvalued trade asset in the sport as the Toronto Raptors were reportedly offered three first-round picks for the two-way wing. Ask any Raptors fan and they will tell you that Anunoby is that spectacular two-way player that is one of the best defensive players in the sport.
Michael Porter Jr, 68th
Michael Porter Jr. was just the third-best player on the title-winning Denver Nuggets. ESPN thinks that the Lakers’ third-best player is better than Denver’s third-best player, which definitely is not nothing.
RJ Barrett, 71st
RJ Barrett signed a huge contract extension with the New York Knicks a year ago and he is floated out as this franchise cornerstone that a massive trade package would be built around for the Knicks’ next superstar. But is that even the case if he is not better than Austin Reaves?
Jordan Poole, 72nd
This one is kind of a no-brainer as Jordan Poole took a step back offensively last season and is a horrible defensive player. He is the perfect kind of “star” to put on a tanking Wizards team, though. He will get buckets and sell tickets but still won’t win many games.
Cade Cunningham, 74th
The folks over at ESPN ranked an undrafted player from the 2021 NBA Draft over the first-overall pick from that very same draft. While Cunningham has a higher ceiling, we cannot really argue with him being lower than Reaves.
Chris Paul, 76th
Chris Paul is at a different stage in his career so this is not the most surprising thing in the world. But after years of speculation that the Lakers may finally get CP3, it is interesting to consider that if the team did, he would not even be a top-three player on the roster.
There are several other notable names that rank behind Reaves (Buddy Hield, Kyle Kuzma and Tyler Herro are a few other polarizing ones). While this might seem crazy to some, this just proves that Reaves is the real deal and should be respected as a legitimate NBA difference-maker.