Austin Reaves has become a revelation as he has gone from an undrafted free agent signing to an important rotation player for the Los Angeles Lakers. This earned Reaves a good payday in the summer and cemented himself as one of the most important players on the Lakers roster.
All that being said, the 2023-24 season has not been as kind to the Arkansas native. While the traditional box score numbers are still solid, Reaves' overall impact on the team has been negative because of his presence on the defensive end.
Reaves is not a great defender and teams have started to take advantage of this fact. As a result, even though he is averaging 15.1 points per game, the Lakers have actually been worse with Reaves on the court. It isn't just that they are worse, they are much worse.
As great as Reaves' story has been, fans have to be objective about his performance and where he actually stands on this team. More importantly, the team itself needs to stop looking at Reaves through purple and gold-colored glasses and realize that he might not be this super expendable asset that they thought.
Lakers shouldn't hesitate to trade Austin Reaves (in the right deal)
This is not to say that the Lakers should be outright shopping Reaves as that would not make much sense. There is still value in having him on the roster and a contending team like the Lakers shouldn't be shipping assets away for nothing.
Where the Lakers need to end the stubbornness is around the idea that Reaves is untouchable. Reaves was first deemed untouchable during the initial Zach LaVine trade rumors with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports recently confirming that the Lakers have told teams they don't want to trade Reaves.
Los Angeles definitely should not trade Reaves for LaVine as he has the exact same issues (solid offensive player that is terrible defensively). But Reaves should not be off the table in other deals. If trading Reaves is the key to getting someone like Dejounte Murray that feels like a move the Lakers should make 10 times out of 10.
Heck, there is a trade with the Chicago Bulls that could make sense that includes Reaves. If Chicago is willing to trade DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, and someone like Patrick Williams for Caruso, D'Angelo Russell, and draft capital is that really a move the Lakers can say no to? Sure, Reaves is a fan favorite, but the team would be trading someone who is hurting the team for three solid rotation players.
A Reaves trade at the deadline still feels very unlikely and the Lakers certainly won't be making phone calls offering him to different teams. But if the right trade comes along, the Lakers need to put their feelings aside and realize that Reaves isn't irreplaceable.