Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were surprised when the team gave their 14th roster spot to Austin Reaves. The undrafted rookie free agent out of Oklahoma was originally given a two-way contract, but it was converted to a standard NBA deal after LeBron James’ Las Vegas minicamp with the team.
Apparently, Reaves impressed the team so much that Frank Vogel and the Lakers front office were compelled to give him a full-time deal before ever stepping foot in an NBA game. However, through three preseason games, those doubts are starting to fade, as Reaves is proving he belongs on the floor.
In the Lakers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, Reaves put up nine points and two steals on 3-of-4 shooting and was a plus-9 in 16 minutes. Vogel was particularly impressed with what he saw from the rookie on the defensive end.
“He’s got great instincts for the game and when he’s making shots like he did tonight, he contributes to winning basketball,” Vogel said.
“He wins possessions on both sides of the ball. Just great defensive instincts to be in the right place at the right time, to compete and really fight and obviously he’s very versatile offensively. He can play with the ball in his hands and create and make the right reads, he knows how to cut, knows how to space and obviously like we said, if he’s making shots like he did tonight then he’s a hell of a player.”
If you close your eyes and forget that he’s no longer with the Lakers, you might think that Vogel is describing Alex Caruso. Reaves is in the very early stages of becoming that type of player, a productive defender who makes intelligent plays on both ends of the floor, and is simply a consistent jump shot away from making the rotation.
Reaves is not built quite like Caruso. He is taller, but not as strong. Some time in an NBA weight room would do wonders for a player like Reaves, who according to Vogel, already has the instincts to make an immediate impact.
With Trevor Ariza out for the next eight weeks, it’s possible that Vogel experiments with Reaves as a small-ball three, putting his defensive acumen to the test. If he succeeds, it would be another massive win for the Lakers’ scouting and development teams.
Dwight Howard brining energy and effort
It remains unclear exactly how minutes are going to be distributed once the season begins. For Dwight Howard, though, minutes are not the main concern.
Regardless of how often he plays, he plans to bring energy, effort, and defensive presence to the paint, which is exactly how he was able to impact championship basketball in 2020.
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