The biggest standout for the Lakers after 4 games … and it’s not Russell Westbrook
The Los Angeles Lakers have evened up their record after starting the 2021-22 season with back-to-back defeats. Even without superstar forward LeBron James, Los Angeles managed to pull out a gutsy 125-121 victory on the road over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night. This season has so far been a mixed bag for the Purple and Gold franchise. After two disappointing performances against the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers seem to have found their groove as they continue building on their chemistry.
While Los Angeles as a team is still figuring and feeling each other out, one player has stood out through their first four games. And it isn’t newly-acquired point guard Russell Westbrook. That man is rookie Austin Reaves.
It’s been just four games into the new season, but Reaves is already slowly winning the hearts of Laker Nation; and head coach Frank Vogel, too. Vogel played the undrafted guard 30 minutes in just his 3rd career NBA game. And it’s not as if Reaves saw plenty of garbage time. Those 30 minutes came in a very tight contest against the Spurs that came down the wire. That shows how much trust and belief Vogel already has in his rookie.
This didn’t come out of anywhere either. Reaves played some 4th quarter minutes against Memphis. In addition, in his NBA debut, though the game was pretty much out of reach at that point, the 23-year old was still part of the Lakers’ fourth quarter unit that made things a little bit interesting in what could have been a more disastrous loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Reaves is giving his coach plenty of reasons to give him a look. It’s definitely going to be hard to keep him off the floor, especially if he’s doing something like this.
I leapt up off my couch on this shot.
The COMPOSURE and balls of Austin Reaves on this pull-up jumpshot.
Looks like such a simple play, but how many Rooks are this controlled in the heat of the game, almost as if the game’s slowed down for him.
— Lakers Legacy (@LakersLegacyPod) October 27, 2021
The guts of this kid. He even did it in a pressure-packed moment in the fourth quarter with the game still hanging in the balance. The awareness to make the pump fake before drawing in closer for a better mid-range look is definitely impressive for a rookie. But what stands out more than anything is the utter audacity to even take that shot considering the players around him on the Lakers. I mean, he had an open Anthony Freakin’ Davis, one of the best players in the world, on the right-wing for a 3-point shot that could have tied the game. Instead, he confidently took it upon himself and calmly knocked down the free-throw line jumper that trimmed the lead to one.
Reaves isn’t a star by any means, but he is the prime example of a guy who knows just what to do on the basketball court. He plays within his role, doesn’t try to do too much, and just understands what he needs to do to contribute a positive impact.
Of course, Reaves obviously has the talent and has shown some passing chops, as seen with this tight bullet feed to Dwight Howard for the easy bucket.
Austin Reaves on the money to Dwight Howard with a solid seal and strong finish 😤
Lakeshow is gaining a whole lot of momentum 👀 pic.twitter.com/JXocnH8Lkc
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 25, 2021
But talent aside, his high IQ has stood out and is one of the reasons why he has earned the trust of his coach and his superstar Lakers teammates in such a short amount of time. Check out what Davis said about him after the Spurs game, while also giving some love to Malik Monk.
Via Joven Buha of The Athletic:
Anthony Davis on what Austin Reaves and Malik Monk provided tonight: pic.twitter.com/dX5F8ISf2c
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 27, 2021
In addition to his basketball smarts, Reaves also isn’t afraid to do the dirty work and get scrappy when he needs to, especially on the defensive side of the floor for the Lakers. Despite being a scrawny 197 pounds, he doesn’t back down and isn’t fazed by his bulkier peers. Watch this impressive defensive stop from Reaves, a block that led to a fastbreak finish on the other end in a tight game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Russell Westbrook 🤝 Austin Reaves pic.twitter.com/GeFfDBrA4s
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 25, 2021
This guy is going to make Lakers fans forget about Alex Caruso. Kidding aside, there is no doubt that Reaves is a terrific young talent.
Some may argue that he is only getting floor time right now because the Lakers are severely undermanned, missing several veterans that would otherwise leave him out of the rotation. However, Reaves has definitely done his part in earning Frank Vogel’s trust.
Think about it, the fact that Vogel rolled him out there with James, Davis, Westbrook, and Anthony — all future Hall of Famers — in the Suns game, his NBA debut no less, must say something about the kid. Sure, the Lakers are going to get healthy at some point and get their veteran reinforcements back. But in just three games, Reaves has shown that he is ready to contribute to this championship-caliber squad.