The Los Angeles Lakers have not had the best past one and a half years or so. Since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, the Lakers have only put up a 68-86 record, and they remain on the fringes of the 2022-23 postseason hunt. However, one bright spot amidst their foray into mediocrity has been the emergence of undrafted guard Austin Reaves, who has taken his game to new heights in recent weeks.

Reaves, simply put, has been incredible in the absence of LeBron James over the past three weeks. The 24-year old has averaged 17.7 points over the past 11 games without James, including a career-high 35-point explosion against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night to give the Lakers a much-needed 111-105 victory to remain right in the thick of the playoff race. However, Reaves' breakout could end up being bittersweet for the franchise that gave him a chance in 2021.

As Sam Quinn of CBS Sports pointed out, Austin Reaves' status as a restricted free agent makes him a tricky player to keep for the Lakers. The Lakers could only offer Reaves an early-bird max contract (105 percent of the average NBA salary) for four years, while other teams will have no such restrictions. As a result, the Lakers could only offer $51 million over four years. Meanwhile, other teams could offer him $29 million more over the same time frame.

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While the Gilbert Arenas provision (which the NBA instituted as a result of the Golden State Warriors' inability to keep Arenas in restricted free agency in 2003) offers the Lakers an alternative route of offering Reaves as much money as other teams, that entails offering him a maximum deal in years three and four of his contract.

Thus, given the uncertainty of the Lakers' cap situation in three seasons' time, and the uncertainty of whether Reaves even becomes worthy of that much money given his lack of track record, doing so could give the purple and gold some pause.

Still, the Lakers have let a promising undrafted guard walk away before in Alex Caruso, so they may not be willing to make the same mistake twice. With Reaves' emergence into an uber-efficient scorer, however, other teams may make keeping him such a risky proposition for the Lakers.