Lakers a ‘Good Bet’ to Sign Impressive Rookie to Long-Term Deal

Frank Vogel Lakers

Getty The Lakers could sign Austin Reaves to a long-term deal.

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had too many bright spots early on in the 2021-22 season, but the play of one particular rookie guard has been.

As the Lakers try to sort things out early on in the Russell Westbrook era, undrafted rookie shooting guard Austin Reaves has shined as a rotation player off of the bench.

Prior to a hamstring injury, Reaves was a regular member of the Lakers’ rotation. He’s averaged 19.8 minutes per game in 12 appearances and his plus/minus rating has only been in the negative in two of his appearances this season.

Reaves is only at a salary at a shade over $925,000 and the Lakers hold his Early Bird rights in 2023. According to Hoops Hype’s Yossi Gozlan, he’s primed to sign a long-term deal with the Lakers.

“Austin Reaves has been a bright spot for the Lakers amid a very disappointing start to the season,” says Gozlan. “His impact isn’t reflected on the box score although some of the Lakers highest-rated lineups include him. Reaves always knows where he needs to be at a given time and for a rookie playing on a team trying to compete, that can often be enough.

Reaves is on the first-year of a two-year minimum contract with the Lakers. They will hold his Early Bird rights in 2023 and should be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal then. With so much uncertainty about the Lakers roster by then with both LeBron James and Russell Westbrook set to have their contracts expire, they should be a good bet to lock up Reaves.”

Lakers Excel With Reaves in Lineup

Although Reaves’ overall numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping — he’s averaging 5.3 points per game on 47.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from beyond the arc — some of the Lakers’ best lineups feature Reaves, as Gozlan mentions.

The lineup featuring Reaves, Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are outscoring opponents by 20 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass. Meanwhile, the very similar lineup involving Reaves, Westbrook, Monk, Anthony and Anthony Davis are outscoring the opposition by 15.4 points per 100 possessions.

For perspective, the Lakers as an overall unit rank 24th in that same category, as they’re outscored by 1.5 points for every 100 possessions.

While 2023 is a long ways away, re-signing Reaves to a long-term deal under Early Bird rights gives the Lakers a bargain deal. In fact, considering Anthony Davis is under contract for that season at $40.6 million and with LeBron James a possibility to re-sign to finish out his career in Los Angeles, the signing of Reaves could provide tremendous flexibility for the Lakers when it comes to the salary cap.

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James Clears Health and Safety Protocols

It looks like James will return to the Lakers’ lineup on Friday versus the Los Angeles Clippers after all.

The 36-year-old superstar has turned in eight negative tests after testing positive for COVID-19 in Sacramento on Tuesday, November 30.

According to a statement from the league on Thursday, James actually did not turn in a positive test.

“James was originally placed in the Protocols on Tuesday, November 30 after a series of tests delivered conflicting results, including an initial positive test that was collected on November 29. Additional testing confirmed that he is not a positive case,” the league said.

The Lakers will welcome the return of their leader as they look to mount some momentum in a tight Western Conference. Los Angeles is currently sixth in the Western Conference, but just a game ahead of the 10th-place Denver Nuggets.

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