Once upon a time, Austin Reaves was supposed to be the Lakers' third star. After a summer in which he essentially blossomed into a global hero, the Lakers organization and fanbase had hopes for the type of growth he would exhibit in year 3.
Through the opening stretch of the season, his backcourt mate D'Angelo Russell has clearly been the superior of the two talented combo guards. That point was emphasized in the team's victory against the Pistons in which D'Lo dominated from start to finish. Reaves, meanwhile, was largely ineffective in the same contest. He finished the game with just 6 points and 4 assists on 3-8 shooting (0-4 from 3).
After his outburst in Detroit, has Russell officially usurped Reaves in the team's pecking order?
Take the following stat lines into consideration.
PLAYER A: 29.9 MPG | 13.5 PPG | 4.8 RPG | 5 APG | 1 SPG | 0.1 BPG | 2.5 TOPG | 45.6/32.0/84.4%
PLAYER B: 31.1 MPG | 17.6 PPG | 3.5 RPG | 6.4 APG | 0.6 SPG | 0.6 BPG | 1.9 TOPG | 49.2/41.9/77.4%
When factoring in both players remaining fully healthy, you are clearly more impressed with what Player B is doing through 19 games, right? What if we told you that Player B was just 2 years older than Player A, and only made roughly $5 million more than Player A? You would probably be inclined to prioritize keeping Player B around over Player A, right?
Austin Reaves defies logic, still feels more untouchable for the Lakers
Despite these aforementioned facts, it still seems as though Player A, otherwise known as Austin Reaves, has more interest around the league. In fact, the Lakers' latest rumored trade partner in Chicago has already made clear of their desire to acquire Reaves in any potential blockbuster deal involving Zach LaVine. But losing Reaves would be heartbreaking for the entire organization, and the front office has already expressed a desire to exclude him in any trade talks with the Bulls.
So Player B, otherwise referred to as D'Angelo Russell, would be a mandatory inclusion in any type of trade framework. Russell, Rui Hachimura, and rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino would be enough to make the math work. On the flip side, the team could instead offer Reaves, Hachimura, and Gabe Vincent to balance out the numbers.
In both scenarios, the team is losing one of its two top perimeter weapons. It just seems as though the majority of fans have this perception of Reaves being miles ahead of Russell in terms of his value to the team. To their dismay, D'Lo's big night in the Motor City was yet another reminder that this perceived assumption may be baseless.