Austin Reaves has been one of the major bright spots for the Los Angeles Lakers during a tumultuous first 39 games of the season. An undrafted rookie, Reaves has played in just 20 games between coronavirus (COVID-19) and a hamstring injury, but the Lakers are 15-5 in the games that he plays.
And while his numbers don’t jump out on the stat sheet, he has earned the trust of Frank Vogel thanks to his strong defensive chops, skilled passing and an underrated handle.
He quickly overtook the likes of Kent Bazemore in the rotation and is now a regular part of the what the Lakers do. Prior to their most recent win against the Sacramento Kings, Vogel praised what he’s seen from Reaves through the first half-season of his career and admitted he didn’t not expect him to contribute this much early in his career.
“From the time you watch him play on his college tapes when I watched him in the summer before we didn’t draft him but before we picked him up, we knew that the kid had some ability,” Vogel said of Reaves. “You watch him play in the summer league and you see what he can do on both sides of the ball and when you sign him to the 15th spot, I definitely didn’t envision him being a rotational player early on.
“Me trusting him was more brought on to me because he was forced into action due to injuries. You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there and obviously, he’s been in and out of the lineup too, but he’s just playing really solid basketball on both ends.”
In the NBA, sometimes all it takes is one opportunity to show a player’s abilities. Reaves got his opportunity thanks to a multitude of injuries and has now played in at least 20 minutes in 13 of his 20 games. The Lakers are 11-2 in those games.
Moving forward, it would be surprising to see Reaves not have a major role with the Lakers. He is one of the team’s most consistent defenders and has shown solid chemistry with the team’s star players like LeBron James.
Reaves’ individual net rating of plus-11.1 is seventh-best in the entire NBA among players with at least 20 games played and at least 20 minutes per game.
Kendrick Nunn to get a ton of minutes
All of the Lakers lineup building could see a significant change when Kendrick Nunn is ready to go again, as Vogel laid out a huge role for the former Miami Heat combo guard.
“I have an idea, but it’s all still to be played out,” the head coach said.
“Kendrick is going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy. It’s going to be at the expense of somebody else at least for that time being to see how he fits in our system along with our stars and all that stuff will play out, so I have a general idea but a lot of it is still to be determined.”
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