Leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers made sure to do their due diligence by working out a number of prospects projected to go in both the first and second rounds.
The Lakers originally held one pick at No. 22 overall, although that quickly became no picks when they traded it as a part of the blockbuster deal to acquire Russell Westbrook.
That left the Lakers outside looking in when the 60 picks came and went on draft night. L.A. wasted no time once the draft ended, however, inking two of the best undrafted players in Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi to two-way contracts.
Both Reaves and Ayayi going undrafted was a huge surprise, but the reason for it is now known. According to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, both players turned down the opportunity to be drafted to choose the team they want to go to:
Reaves signed with the Lakers on a two-way deal following the draft. Sources told The Athletic that Reaves turned down the ability to get drafted in order to pick his own spot after the draft. Ultimately, the Lakers were the most attractive option, and it’s easy to see why. Not only are they a contender, but they have a ton of open roster spots following the Russell Westbrook trade, and guys who enter the summer on a two-way are actually somewhat well-positioned to have a shot to make the roster due to luxury-tax concerns. I think my bold prediction is Reaves is on a full contract by midseason.
Similarly to Reaves above, Ayayi turned down offers to be drafted in order to skate through the draft and choose his spot. And similarly to Reaves again, he chose the Lakers. Yeah, the Lakers did well by not even having a pick.
This seems like a smart decision for both players considering the Lakers only have five players on their roster at the moment and will have to fill a lot of the slots with minimum contracts.
That could allow Reaves and Ayayi to make the team and perhaps even see some playing time throughout the course of the season.
They will play for L.A.’s Summer League team first in Las Vegas, which will be their first opportunity to impress the front office and coaching staff.
Lakers bring in McClung and Brown on training camp contracts
In addition to bringing in Reaves and Ayayi, the Lakers could also sign Mac McClung and Chaundee Brown on training camp deals.
They will also be playing for the Summer League team in Las Vegas, with the Lakers’ first game taking place on Sunday, Aug. 8.
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