Of all the stats that have come out of the first half of the Lakers’ wild NBA season, this one might be the craziest: 12-2. That’s the team’s record in games when rookie Austin Reaves plays at least 18 minutes.
The Lakers are 8-17 when he does not play 18 minutes.
Little wonder, then, that the Lakers guaranteed the remainder of Reaves’ contract on Friday, a move that the team also took with Avery Bradley, who has improved dramatically since a rough start to the season. Neither contract was fully guaranteed when it was signed in the offseason.
Reaves has impressed with his toughness and versatility, and is averaging 5.6 points in 20.3 minutes per game. He has played in 20 games this season, missing time with a hamstring injury early in the year, then missing games while in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Bradley averaged just 5.0 points on 37.8% shooting (35.4% from the 3-point line) in his first 22 games this season but is averaging 10.0 points over his last nine games, making 50.0% of his shots and 46.2% of his 3-pointers.
Both Players Are on Minimum Deals
Neither contract was all that weighty on the Lakers’ books. L.A. signed Reaves for the rookie minimum of $925,000 after converting his two-way contract into a standard deal. Bradley is on an NBA veteran’s minimum contract, making $2.6 million.
But keeping both on board does mean that the Lakers will remain at 14 players on the roster. The team is expected to sign wing Stanley Johnson to a contract as the 15th player on the roster.
Traditionally, the Lakers have entered trade-deadline time with an open roster spot to sign a player waived after the deadline on a buyout deal. Unless L.A. trades a player or cuts someone, the Lakers won’t have roster space for a buyout addition.
Vogel Surprised by Reaves’ Production
Still, it is a big day for Reaves, who went undrafted out of Oklahoma on draft night. In a season in which Kendrick Nunn’s injury and disappointment from the likes of veterans Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and Talen Horton-Tucker have hurt the Lakers’ expected depth, Reaves has done well to fill the void.
Coach Frank Vogel addressed his contributions this week, according to LakersNation.com:
From the time you watch him play on his college tapes when I watched him in the summer before we didn’t draft him but before we picked him up, we knew that the kid had some ability. You watch him play in the summer league and you see what he can do on both sides of the ball and when you sign him to the 15th spot, I definitely didn’t envision him being a rotational player early on.
Me trusting him was more brought on to me because he was forced into action due to injuries. You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there and obviously, he’s been in and out of the lineup too, but he’s just playing really solid basketball on both ends.