Los Angeles Lakers fans haven’t had time over the past few seasons to watch one of their beloved young guys grow into something greater while wearing the purple-and-gold. We’ve clung onto some in their short time here, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso come to mind. However, all of those players have left the Lakers, whether it’s due to trades or free agency. Now, this 2021-22 roster is FULL of older, extremely established players. We still have the 20 year old Talen Horton-Tucker (who will miss at least four weeks due to a thumb injury), however, we may have a new fan favorite coming in as an undrafted rookie in Austin Reaves.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 13, 2021
Reaves has shown tremendous ability to hang with the other NBA players in these preseason games, in fact, in last night’s loss against the Warriors, Reaves closed the first half alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony. Those four mega names started the game, showing Frank Vogel thought “Hillbilly Kobe” could play with them and contribute in a group of four guys that may very well all start on opening night.
LeBron spoke about Reaves after the game, praising the rookie while even saying he has some “dog” in him (h/t Mike Trudell of the Lakers/Spectrum SportsNet).
LeBron on Austin Reaves, who went from a two-way deal to bigger minutes due to injuries: “He’s an NBA player. He can play at this level. I watched a lot of film on him when we (signed) him. His size … shot making ability …passing … High IQ kid, and he has a lot of dog in him.”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 13, 2021
Anthony Davis also had praise for Reaves, saying he plays hard, smart, and always tries to play the right way at all times. I haven’t made the easy comparison yet considering their fair skin and young age, but there are obviously more factors than his appearance that makes people think of one Alex Caruso. Just take a look at a couple of the plays below that show Reaves not making the highlight play, but making the right play, nonetheless.
This is nice rotating to cover for a teammate. Reaves is executing assignments well defensively in his minutes so far.
Blow-by on-ball -> DAJ traps the box to stop the drive -> Reaves sinks down to take away DAJ's guy = turnover pic.twitter.com/3ESXxXFGIL
— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) October 10, 2021
Again, it's the little things for Reaves (and young players in general) that makes you intrigued.
Here he receives the skip pass from LeBron and immediately notices the strong position Dwight has (physically) carved out. The whip pass is right on the money. pic.twitter.com/6r2jYEOJUf
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 13, 2021
This isn’t something that has come naturally to Austin Reaves. He’s obviously a hard worker and earnest learner, something he evidenced in his post-game comments from last night.
“I ask a lot of questions. Like I said the other day, I ask Rondo something probably every five minutes so it’s really just me trying to be a sponge and learning. I got beat on two or three back cuts tonight and it’s just situations like that they’re trying to coach me up and teach me situations and how we guard it.”
Rajon Rondo isn’t the only player that Austin Reaves can learn a lot from. There are players up-and-down the roster that have more NBA experience individually than some teams in the NBA have collectively. He could even get some pointers on just how to navigate the season from other young guys such as Talen Horton-Tucker or Malik Monk.
It’s great to hear Reaves liken himself to a “sponge” in the fact that he’s trying to learn every day. That will only help his game, which already has the makings of a possible rotation player for Frank Vogel this season.
As we near the playoffs, it’ll be very interesting and exciting to see where he’s at as a player.