The Los Angeles Lakers are on a quest to win the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the quarterfinals on Thursday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The spotlight will undoubtedly be on LeBron James and Anthony Davis as they look to lead the Lakers, who are undefeated in the tournament so far, to the NBA Cup. But the Lakers will need others to step up and serve as X-Factors if they want to advance to the championship round of the In-Season Tournament.

The Lakers have been the best team in the NBA In-Season Tournament by far. They hold the highest net rating among all teams and have the best defense in the tournament so far. Nonetheless, Los Angeles enters this game as just 2-point favorites, and understandably so. The Pelicans are starting to get healthy and are starting to look like a real threat in the Western Conference. If you need any proof that they are on the comeup, look no further than their impressive road win over the Sacramento Kings in the quarterfinals to set this semifinals date versus the Lakers.

Though he's set to turn 39 years old later this month, James is still by far the leader of this Lakers team. Anthony Davis remains the secondary scoring option on most nights while also carrying the task of anchoring their defense. As mentioned, however, the Lakers will need an X-Factor to step up for Los Angeles to advance to the NBA In-Season Tournament championship. That man is none other than Austin Reaves.

Lakers X-Factor for In-Season Tournament vs. Pelicans: Austin Reaves

D'Angelo Russell is still the Los Angeles Lakers' third leading scorer this season behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But Austin Reaves is by far the Lakers' most important role player so far.

The Lakers elevated Reaves to the starting unit near the end of last season and through their 2023 playoff run. He began the 2023-24 NBA season as a starter. However, he struggled to open the campaign and was relegated to the bench as a strategic move by head coach Darvin Ham.

In eight games as a starter, Reaves averaged 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 steals. But he shot just 41.6 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from three. Since moving to the bench, Reaves has been tallying 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists while shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from long distance.

As the numbers indicate, Reaves has looked much better since the “demotion.” Though he doesn't start, Reaves continues to play a key role for the Lakers and, more often than not, is part of their finishing unit. In fact, he even finishes games over Russell most of the time, just as we saw in their quarterfinal game versus the Suns.

And more often than not, Reaves proves he deserves his spot out there, especially if he continues coming up big in the clutch for the Lakers.

Most importantly, LeBron James and Anthony Davis trust the guy.

Reaves doesn't make the dagger three against the Suns if Davis and most especially James, don't allow him to do what he does. The two stars' trust have instilled the much-needed confidence in Reaves to continue doing what he's doing. If he continues to play well, the Lakers should get past the Pelicans to advance to the championship round.