It's not too often that an undrafted player manages to carve out a long, productive NBA career. After all, it's rare for talented players to slip through the cracks. But just how likely is it for that undrafted player to step up for a player of LeBron James' caliber, which is exactly what Austin Reaves has done for the Los Angeles Lakers over the past 12 games with James on the mend due to a foot injury?
With James yet to return ever since he hurt his foot on February 26 against the Dallas Mavericks, Reaves has made it a mission to do whatever it is the Lakers have needed to remain right in the thick of the playoff race. It appears as if James' absence has flipped a switch for the undrafted guard out of Oklahoma.
Speaking with Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet in his post-game interview following the Lakers' 122-111 win over noted foils Phoenix Suns, Austin Reaves revealed what type of mindset he had specifically after earning a promotion to the starting lineup with a string of impressive performances.
“Like I've told you many times, I'm just trying to play the right way. Obviously without Bron try to be a little bit more aggressive and try to fill the void ‘coz he brings so much to the table. Everybody's got to chip in on that aspect. And everybody did tonight. It was a good win,” Reaves said.
"I'm just trying to play the right way. Obviously without Bron try to be a little bit more aggressive and try to fill the void." Austin reaves with @MikeTrudell following tonight's win. pic.twitter.com/swMaUMPxNk
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) March 23, 2023
Austin Reaves' aggression shows in his relentless quest to get to the foul line. Against the Suns, the Lakers guard scored 12 of his 25 points from the foul line; this comes after an impressive 35-point effort on Sunday night against the Orlando Magic where the 24-year old guard managed to get to the charity stripe 18 times.
For reference, Reaves just became the 18th player this season to attempt 18+ free throws in a single game — and his company on that list includes the likes of Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Doncic, among others.
It's unclear if Reaves can carry over this impressive play even after LeBron James returns. But for now, the Lakers will continue to ride the hot hand of the gem that they unearthed in 2021.