LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers had a disappointing 2021-22 season, as they finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs entirely. Fit issues with new acquisition Russell Westbrook plagued the team, in addition to an overall lack of quality players. But if there was any silver lining to their putrid season, it was the fact that plucky guard Austin Reaves was given an opportunity to prove that he belongs in the league.
And Reaves took the opportunity by the scruff of its neck. In fact, Reaves even passed the vibe check with Lakers superstar LeBron James.
During their 119-115 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns, Austin Reaves put up impressive all-around numbers in 28 minutes: six points, seven rebounds, nine assists, three steals, and two blocks, drawing a special mention from LeBron, who couldn’t help but fawn over the scrappy 6’5 guard.
“Austin can fit in any group. A guy who plays extremely hard, plays well, doesn’t make mistakes, always in the right place at the right time… he plays extremely hard. His IQ is very high. Always good to be on the floor with him. I love AR,” James told reporters after the game.
LeBron on Austin Reaves: "Austin can fit in any group. A guy who plays extremely hard, plays well, doesn't make mistakes, always in the right place at the right time … he plays extremely hard. His IQ is very high. Always good to be on the floor with him. I love AR." https://t.co/O76NUmMXUY
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 6, 2022
The Lakers roster, as presently constructed, will provide Reaves an opportunity to thrive off the more ball-dominant exploits of household names LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. Every team needs someone to perform the little things at the highest level.
And it appears the second-year guard out of Oklahoma is ready to step up as one of the most valuable glue guys in the NBA, something he needs to do if he wants to stick around in the NBA for a long time.
“He’s just super-duper cool, he doesn’t do much of anything besides play ball, chill, and golf. I will always be a fan of AR for the rest of his career. Hopefully, his career is a lot longer than what I got [left] in my career. [If] I’m still playing, and he’s not playing, then that’s a problem. But AR is great man,” James added.
The highlight of Austin Reaves’ rookie season was when he made a game-winning three against the Dallas Mavericks back in December 2021. Reaves ended up playing 61 games (19 starts) for the depleted Lakers, and he averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 23.2 minutes a night. It’s not hard to envision Reaves taking a leap in the upcoming season, as he’s only 24 years of age.