Austin Reaves already one of NBA’s best rookies

Austin Reaves
Oct 6, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves (15) against the Phoenix Suns during a preseason game at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Not many young guys can hang with the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but don’t tell that to Austin Reaves. It’s all been a bet on himself that’s paying off. He’s got the trust of Head Coach Frank Vogel and the nod from the league’s most illustrious franchise.

I once described Reaves as a “break in case of emergency” player. This was once he was converted from a two-way deal to a standard NBA roster contract. The Lakers unfortunately stumbled on an emergency early. And once they started to sink a bit, he’s provided a small, but steady anchor on both ends.

Reaves’ averages of 6.1 points per game and two rebounds are modest, but far more than everyone could have predicted. His scoring puts him just outside the top-10 amongst rookies per, above the likes of first rounders like Trey Murphy III and Corey Kispert. He has shown excellent value for a team lacking young prospects and future draft capital.

Reaves just doesn’t do things like a usual rookie. It’s very early and a lot of basketball grind left, but it’s all so promising. Tuesday night’s win over the Charlotte Hornets was a prime example. A 126-123 victory with many tight moments could not shake his confidence. Here’s a little snippet of some of his activity late in the 4th quarter from Alex Regla of Silver Screen & Roll:

This play is going to pay dividends when the Lakers get healthy. Reaves will give the team more connective tissue to Talen Horton-Tucker as a ball handler. His effort and smarts on defense will blend well with Trevor Ariza’s intangibles. Kendrick Nunn will have a transition buddy as well. The possibilities are endless.

The Lakers have underwhelmed, mostly due to injuries. I can comfortably say that if not for Reaves, things could be a lot worse. The scouting department deserves their credit for a find that was off the radar. It’s about time the league takes notice and elevates his name:

Hillbilly Kobe.

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