Austin Reaves quickly developed into one of the biggest fan favorites on the Los Angeles Lakers because of his great story. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021, Reaves quickly ascended into being a legitimate rotation player and had one of the most impressive runs for a player of his caliber in the 2022 summer.
After putting together multiple very important games for the Lakers in the NBA Playoffs, Reaves joined Team USA for the FIBA World Cup over the summer. Team USA ultimately disappointed but Reaves proved his belonged in the process.
All of this netted Reaves a favorable new deal from the Lakers and his spot as the third-most important player on the team was all but secured. Then, however, Reaves struggled to start the 2023-24 season and was eventually moved to the bench by head coach Darvin Ham.
Reaves has since improved and his scoring numbers have been great here recently. In the month of December Reaves is scoring 19.4 points on .504/.421/.935 shooting splits. Basketball isn't play in the box score, and isn't just played on the offensive end. Despite his late offensive surge, Reaves has actually been a negative presence for the Lake Show this season.
It is time for Lakers fans to have the Austin Reaves conversation
As good as he is on the offensive end, Reaves is not a great defensive player despite his best efforts. All basketball fans saw this in the FIBA World Cup when Reaves started to get hunted on the defensive end when the games started to matter.
We have seen this to a degree on the Lakers this season as well and it has had an impact on the team's overall success. Granted, these numbers are slightly swayed by his bad start to the season, but we have a big enough sample size in the 2023-24 season to really dissect Reaves' on/off numbers.
When Reaves is on the court the Lakers have an offensive rating of 113.7 and a defensive rating of 116.8. This gives the team a -3.1 net rating when Reaves is on the court, meaning that they are worse than their opponent per 100 possessions. It gets worse when you compare the numbers when Reaves is off the court as well.
When Reaves is off the court the Lakers have an offensive rating of 111.3 and a defensive rating of 108.3. The offensive rating is slightly worse but the defensive rating is far better, giving LA a net rating of +2.9 when Reaves is on the bench.
This means that the Lakers' net rating is -6.0 when Reaves is on the court versus when he is off the court. Jaxson Hayes is the only player in the rotation who has a worse on/off split than Reaves does this season.
Granted, a big part of that has to do with who he is playing around when he is on the court as he is naturally playing with more second-unit players off the bench. But we already saw Reaves when he was starting and that wasn't working either, so it is hard to make that excuse for him.
Plus, the data is there for how Reaves plays with his Lakers teammates. The eight worst three-man lineups on the Lakers this season in terms of net rating (min. 150 minutes played) all include Austin Reaves. LeBron James and Austin Reaves have a 0.0 net rating together. Anthony Davis and Reaves have a -0.5 net rating together. Those are the only two-man lineups on the Lakers with at least 500 minutes played that do not have a positive net rating together.
There are 58 players in the NBA with at least 800 minutes played this season and Reaves ranks 39th in win shares, 38th in PER, 37th in VORP and 35th in Box Plus/Minus. Nobody expects Reaves to be an elite player in the top 10, but he certainly has not been this untouchable star that some fans have made him out to be.
That doesn't mean that the Lakers should be shopping Reaves and quite frankly, he should get a chance to figure it out. Trading him for someone like Zach LaVine would be horrendous. But maybe we should all pump the brakes a little bit Reaves, and recognize him for who he truly is right now.