In recent games, the Los Angeles Lakers have turned the rotation over to their younger players. In addition to LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, players like Austin Reaves, Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson, and Talen Horton-Tucker have been integral to their success.
A duo that has particularly impressed over the past few weeks is that of Monk and Reaves. The guard combination has a net rating of 12.4, the third-best of any two-man lineup that has shared the court for at least 50 minutes this season.
Their offensive rating of 111.7 is just above league average, but what’s surprising is the defensive dominance when these two share the floor. Their 99.2 defensive rating as a duo would be a full six points better than the NBA’s best defense.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel discussed what the pairing of Monk and Reaves has brought to the Lakers.
“I like the combination of Malik Monk and Austin Reaves out there together,” Vogel said. “That’s something that we had seen more in second units throughout the season but it’s been a combination that our analytics teams said has really produced. Those guys have some of our best on-off, plus-minus stats, those types of things and we decided a couple games ago to look at it in the starting lineup and even though we hadn’t won yet, those guys are performing at a high level and were a plus-22 together tonight.
“Going into a game against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson saying we were gonna put Malik and Austin on them gave me a little bit of anxiety, I’m gonna be honest. But those guys really, really competed and executed our plan and we were able to get the W.”
Reaves has surprised many — even within the Lakers organization — with his staunch defense. Reaves has taken the claim to fame of former Laker Alex Caruso for being dominant on the advanced stat sheets.
Of the 20 best two-man combinations the Lakers employ by net rating, Reaves is a part of 10 of them. The next best is Monk, who is a part of eight of those 20. By every metric, Monk and Reaves playing together brings success for the Lakers.
This is an important thing to figure out, even if it is a little later than fans would have liked. With 19 games remaining in the season, the Lakers need to do everything they can to play their best basketball each night.
Vogel credits Reaves for defensive improvements
When asked which player has made the most strides defensively over the Lakers’ recent stretch, Vogel took the opportunity to praise Reaves.
“I think Austin Reaves. Doing what he’s doing as a rookie is nothing short of remarkable,” Vogel said. “We did not anticipate him being this solid on the defensive side maybe at all in his career, let alone as a rookie. So I have a lot of confidence in him, he’s been tested over and over again and he keeps rising to the challenge, so I’d say probably him.
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