A dark horse has emerged to steal Austin Reaves from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Coming out of this year’s remarkable playoff run, no single Western Conference player saw their star ascend in the way Reaves’ did.
On the court, Reaves averaged 16.9 points on 44.3 percent shooting from three throughout the entire postseason. In addition, he chipped in 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per outing – often serving as the Lakers’ second or third best offensive option.
In the Western Conference Finals, when stakes were at their highest, Reaves averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per outing.
Off court, the 25-year-old also displayed an immense amount of swagger that quickly turned him into a fan favorite. Between his epic trash talk for Laker foes and his girlfriend’s wild photos going viral, Reaves has all the starpower necessary for success in L.A.
This summer Reaves will be a restricted free agent. Already, three teams have stepped up and expressed interest in stealing him from the Lakers.
In addition, one dark horse emerged this week that could give Los Angeles a real run for its money.
“I’ve heard [the] San Antonio [Spurs] could be a dark horse team that will try to poach Austin from the Lakers,” Jovan Buha of The Athletic said on The HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto.
That said, regardless of what other teams bring to the table, Buha expects that Reaves will remain in purple and gold next year no matter what.
“I think the Lakers are going to retain him,” he added. “Obviously, their preference would be to sign him to the four-year, $54 million deal.”
Scotto, for his part, wouldn’t be shocked to see Reaves’ deal end up closer to the $100 million mark.
“It appears, essentially, that Reaves is going to get a four-year, $54 million deal the Lakers can offer, or it’s going to take a team coming in at four years, $100 million to really move the needle with a restricted free agency offer sheet,” he said.
“Some executives think he’s worth $80 million (over four years). Once free agency unfolds, maybe some teams don’t get guys they thought they would get with cap space.
“Could they make a bigger offer sheet and go up to that $100 million? That remains to be seen. The Lakers will have the opportunity to keep him. He’s not even scratching the surface of his prime. He’s only 25.”
The Lakers are going to need to make some tough decisions this summer, and not just as it pertains to Reaves.
D’Angelo Russell’s status in L.A., due in no small part to LeBron James’ distaste for his playoff performance, is very much in doubt. If the Lakers move him, two teams have emerged as frontrunners for a potential deal.
In addition to that, three teams are also positioning themselves to steal Rui Hachimura from the Lakers.
— Game 7 (@game7__) June 1, 2023
Los Angeles made an incredible run after the NBA Trade Deadline.
A lot of it had to do with Reaves, Russell and Hachimura playing at an immensely high level when it mattered most.
Success in 2023-24 will hinge on bringing at least two out of three of those guys back, and it all starts with Reaves. Will he still be a member of the Lakers come the beginning of next season? An answer one way or the other will emerge soon enough.