Amid the overall doom and gloom that accompanied the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, rookie Austin Reaves emerged as one of the campaign’s few shining lights.
Reaves joined the Lakers as an undrafted free agent and quickly proved he deserved a spot on the roster. He impressed L.A.’s coaching staff in training camp and during the 2021 Summer League, earning him a two-way deal with the Purple and Gold — which the franchise upgraded to a standard NBA contract even before the season’s tip-off.
Right out of the gate, head coach Frank Vogel entrusted Reaves with serious rotation minutes. The 24-year-old stood his ground on the defensive end and proved his potential on the other side of the court, showing he can shoot the ball from distance as well as make his way to the basket back off cuts and in transition.
Even though a hamstring injury and the coronavirus (COVID-19) slowed down the guard’s growth at the end of 2021, he eventually ended the season in the starting lineup. Reaves averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists over 61 games, shooting 45.9% from the field and 31.7% from deep.
Reaves scored 15 points in a tough overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Dec 15. — only half of the tally he signed off with in the season-ending victory over the Denver Nuggets. However, the rookie produced one of the highlights of the Lakers’ season that night, knocking down a go-ahead dagger three in the last seconds of the game to seal the win.
Reaves then disappeared in Anthony Davis’ embrace as the elated Lakers players celebrated the guard’s special moment on the floor. Unfortunately, Reaves couldn’t build on his performance in the coming weeks, as he entered the health and safety protocols after the game.
Reaves made a great impression in his rookie season, seemingly following in the footsteps of Alex Caruso — the other Lakers wonder story who even said Reaves seems to be farther along than he was in his first year in the NBA.
If the guard continues putting in the hard work and hustling on the court when his name is called, Reaves should approach the season confident that there’ll be a place for him in Darvin Ham’s rotation.
Putting on a few extra pounds and working on adding consistency to his offensive input could elevate his game to another level.
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