Lakers’ Austin Reaves Hints at Following LeBron James’ Blueprint

Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James #6 and Austin Reaves #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers only have so much time left with 38-year-old LeBron James before he either retires or moves on to a new team. They can still turn to Anthony Davis and rising star Austin Reaves.

Reaves recently played into the idea that he could use his current place on Team USA to recruit players to join the Lakers – a strategy some believed James used in 2008 during the Beijing Summer Olympics before joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami with the Heat in 2010.

“I can’t speak on that,” a smiling Reaves said, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic on August 22. “But I like some of the guys we’re playing with. So … yeah.”

No one on Team USA’s FIBA roster is heading toward free agency in the next year or two.

But that is not the current nature of the NBA when it comes to star players anymore. Now, they take the most money they can get – which usually means from their current team – and figure out if they want to stay later on.

Limited Recruiting Options on Team USA

The only player on Team USA’s roster with fewer than three years remaining on their current contract is Brandon Ingram whom the Lakers traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis deal in 2019. He is heading into the fourth year of a five-year, $158.2 million contract.

Ingram, who the Lakers drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, has taken note of Reaves’ strengths “from afar”.

“The one thing I’ve noticed is that he’s consistent at how he plays and he doesn’t do anything outside of how he plays,” Ingram said, per Dan Woike of the LA Times on August 18. “And he’s really detailed on the defensive end.”

While Ingram has been the subject of some trade speculation in New Orleans, a trade would be quite expensive in both draft capital and player assets.

Reaves would be the Lakers’ greatest trade chip as far as players.

But head coach Darvin Ham has already said the Reaves is going to start at shooting guard and that he plans on featuring the former undrafted free agent.

“I’m putting it on record right now: Austin Reaves will be an All-Star at some point soon,” said Ham on the “#thisleague: UNCUT” podcast on July 13. “I think…him being invited to be a part of the World Cup team is the first step in that direction…My plan is to continue to feature him. He’s our starting 2-guard.”

Reaves signed a four-year, $53.8 million contract this offseason.

Austin Reaves Answers Lingering Questions for Lakers

“Let’s just say James leaves the Lakers after those two years,” Buha wrote on August 8. “Who then becomes the star to join Davis? And is he the type of player who will attract stars to L.A.?”

Buha also notes that Davis being a part of the 2020 title team will help boost his appeal to potential teammates and that the Lakers (and Los Angeles) are a draw in their own right. But Reaves’ potential willingness to actively recruit players could help ease the burden.

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