Rob Pelinka: Freeing Up More Touches & Minutes For Austin Reaves Was Factor In Lakers’ Trade Deadline Moves
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, the turning point of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season came at the trade deadline. But after all of the moves were made, it wasn’t one of the newest Lakers who came into the limelight, but rather second-year guard Austin Reaves whose game went to another level.

With Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley gone, and LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell dealing with injuries, Reaves was thrust into more of a playmaking role and thrived with the ball in his hands. Eventually, head coach Darvin Ham made Reaves a starter and he has continued to be one of the most important and reliable players on the roster.

According to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, that was always part of the plan as well as he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that increasing the role of Reaves was a factor in the team’s moves at the deadline:

“The trade deadline isn’t always what you bring in,” Rob Pelinka, Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations, told ESPN. “It opened up a lane for him [Reaves] to really get on ball a little bit more and kind of show some of the skills that might have been dormant when there were other players playing.

“[It was] definitely a consideration around Austin and how do we free up more — both time for him and then ability to make plays with the ball in his hand. Because the analytics show, he’s highly effective.”

Reaves being one of the team’s primary ballhandlers and shot creators wasn’t something that many envisioned at the beginning of the season, but it is something he clearly has the skillset for. The Lakers guard has been great in the pick-and-roll and just makes the right play far more often than not.

The Lakers’ front office deserves a lot of credit for making the moves they did this season and players like D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt have certainly changed the trajectory of the team. But if Reaves hadn’t grown into the player he has, the Lakers wouldn’t be where they are right now.

Austin Reaves says Lakers’ confidence ‘still really high’ after Game 5 loss

One thing Reaves doesn’t lack is confidence as he has looked comfortable in the highest-stress situations over and over again. And even though the Lakers failed on the road in Game 5, Reaves insists the team is still very confident heading into Friday’s crucial Game 6.

Reaves says the team’s confidence is ‘still really high’ despite the loss, noting that the Lakers knew closing out the Grizzlies wouldn’t be an easy task but they are ready to go on Friday night.

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