The legend of Austin Reaves begins with him going undrafted in 2021.
Fresh out of Oklahoma and coming off a campaign that saw him earn First Team All-Big 12 honors, Reaves didn’t hear his name called on draft night and wound up signing a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As it turns out, though – Reaves could have been drafted.
He simply opted to reject an NBA team he didn’t want to end up with in favor of the Lakers.
This week Reaves sat down with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the ‘All The Smoke’ podcast and offered some clarity on his origin story. The interview went viral and successfully stole the headlines from the Lakers cheerleader whose wild photos set the internet ablaze a few days earlier.
Austin Reaves bet on himself by choosing to go undrafted.
— SHOWTIME Basketball (@shobasketball) July 20, 2023
“We could have got drafted 42nd to [the] Detroit [Pistons], but declined that to put me in LA,” Reaves said.
“So basically we tiered teams. Best fit for me and L.A. was I think two on the list at the time. Milwaukee might have been one, but they were tier one and I think Detroit called. It was like I said, really trying to put me in a position to you know, be able to get a roster spot.
“We knew that there was a high interest for a two-way contract, so we didn’t really have to press and that’s what everything in the draft would have been. From 42 and on would have been basically a two-way agreement. So we didn’t have to press and I didn’t really have to hear my name called either.”
Obviously the decision proved to be a good one for Reaves. After averaging 7.3 points per game for Los Angeles in 2021-22, he took his game up a notch last season and put up 13 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
In the playoffs, specifically, Reaves elevated his game even further. He averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per outing, while also shooting 44.3 percent from three.
Against the Denver Nuggets, a series L.A. would obviously prefer to forget, Reaves averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per outing.
For his troubles, Reaves was rewarded this summer with a four-year deal worth nearly $54 million. Understandably, he and his girl have been partying nonstop ever since.
Next season will be a huge one for all parties involved.
Coach O’s still got it. https://t.co/8Bh0AkGTaS
— Game 7 (@game7__) July 20, 2023
L.A. obviously gave Reaves a big pay raise in anticipation of him growing even more as a player.
Reaves, meanwhile, wants to continue to become one of the faces of the organization.
Will Reaves and the Lakers be able to take that next step in 2023-24 and make a legitimate run at an NBA championship? Time will tell.