The Lakers Must Re-Sign Austin Reaves This Offseason, No Matter the Cost
The Los Angeles Lakers were bounced from the Western Conference Finals Monday night by the Denver Nuggets and immediately attention has turned to the franchise's offseason plans. They'll have to contend with LeBron James retirement rumors, but the Lakers are actually set up pretty well for the future if he decides to come back. And while speculation about adding Kyrie Irving is sure to swirl, the franchise's top priority has to be re-signing restricted free agent Austin Reaves.
Reaves was an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma in 2021 an signed a two-way contract with the Lakers. He quickly carved out a rotation spot for himself and played in 61 games as a rookie, starting 19. He had a major breakout during the 2022-23 season, though. This year, Reaves played in 64 games, starting 22 and averaged 13.0 points, 3.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game. He shot 52.9 percent from the field, 39.8 from 3-point range and 86.4 percent from the free throw line. He got even better in the postseason.
In 16 playoff games, Reaves upped his game considerably. He started every contest and averaged 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 36.2 minutes per game. He also shot 44.3 percent from the 3-point line and 89.5 percent from the free throw line. Moreover his defensive intensity, energy and playmaking skills made him invaluable to the Lakers' run to the conference finals.
In two short years, Reaves has gone from undrafted guard ticketed for the G-League, to the third guy LeBron and Anthony Davis have been looking for. His shooting and defense make him a perfect complement to the Lakers' Big Two.
The max deal the Lakers can offer Reaves as a restricted free agent is four years and $51 million. But LA can match any offer he receives from other NBA teams. The vibes coming out from behind the scenes suggest they'll do just that. They won't let the 24-year-old walk like they did Alex Caruso. Many inside the organization view that decision as a massive mistake they will not allow to happen again.
The Lakers do face some tough decisions with free agents. Rui Hachimura was huge for the team down the stretch and in the playoffs, D'Angelo Russell's shooting and playmaking helped them get to the conference finals, Lonnie Walker IV looked like a budding star at times, Mo Bamba's skill set is tantalizing and Dennis Schroder came up huge at times. Rob Pelinka has some serious decisions to make when it comes to those players.
The Lakers do have one easy call to make this offseason: re-signing Reaves. It's a no-brainer, no matter the cost.