Lakers’ Austin Reaves on Shortlist for Multiple Season Award Predictions

Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Austin Reaves #15 of the United States and Los Angeles Lakers.

The meteoric rise of Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Austin Reaves continues.

From undrafted free agent to key piece in the Lakers’ run to the Western Conference Finals to an integral part of Team USA, Reaves’ rapid ascension has him on ESPN’s “Summer Forecast” panel’s shortlists for two different awards next season. Reaves, 25, shows up in the projected races for both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards.

He ranks second on ESPN’s list for Sixth Man of the Year behind Golden State Warriors point guard Chris Paul.

“Although Paul has never come off the bench, his contributions as a reserve could strengthen the Warriors’ title chances,” ESPN’s panel wrote on August 22. “But not far behind in our poll is Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Austin Reaves.”

Reaves opening the season as the starter and remaining there would disqualify him from the Sixth Man of the Year running, though it could also suggest he’s continuing to develop.

However, his current trajectory would seem to align with ESPN’s other projection for him.

Austin Reaves Poised for Another Big Leap

Reaves tied with Brooklyn Nets swingman Mikal Bridges for ninth on the list for Most Improved Player behind several second and third-year players. Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons tops the list that also includes the first and second runners-up in the 2023 Rookie of the Year voting in Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz and Jaylin Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Each of the players listed ahead of Reaves started more games than he did last season.

Reaves started 22 of his 64 appearances last season, both career-high marks. But Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has already declared Reaves to be the team’s starting 2-guard heading into next season which should afford him even more playing time by default, and Ham set the bar even higher.

“I’m putting it on record right now: Austin Reaves will be an All-Star at some point soon,” Ham said on the “#thisleague: UNCUT” podcast on July 13. “My plan is to continue to feature him. He’s our starting 2-guard.”

Reaves nearly doubled his output from the season before, going from 7.3 points per game as a rookie in 2021-22 to 13.0 PPG in 2022-23.

He also went from 1.8 assists to 3.4 assists per game as his playing time increased.

Reaves averaged just over 23 minutes as a rookie and slightly under 28.8 minutes per game as a sophomore, and that change in his role could lead to him locking up Most Improve Player if that trend continues. He’s already proving his ability as a playmaker with Team USA, drawing the praise of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Reaves was rewarded for his progress with a four-year, $53.8 million contract this offseason that should keep him with the Lakers through the 2027-28 season.

Spurs Considered ‘$100M’ Deal for Austin Reaves

“The Spurs … considered two offers for Reaves,” wrote Jovan Buha of The Athletic on August 22. “One for the maximum amount of dollars and years (approximately four years, $100 million) and a smaller, shorter structure (three years, $60 million). In both cases, if the Lakers matched the offer, Reaves’ salary would’ve ballooned for Los Angeles in the third and/or fourth year.”

Reaves discussed the Spurs’ interest in him on the “Full Send Podcast” on August 10.

Buha adds that the Lakers’ insistence on matching any offer Reaves received in restricted free agency ultimately kept interested teams at bay.

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