Lakers Insider Name-Drops $67 Million All-Star in Austin Reaves Trade Talk

Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Austin Reaves #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves has been portrayed as off-limits in trade rumors, and that remains mostly true.

Reaves, 25, is a homegrown talent in just his third season and the first on a four-year, $53.8 million contract. He has proven effective in various roles and has the favor of ownership, per Lakers governor Jeanie Buss herself. But Reaves isn’t exactly untouchable.

“The longer answer is more nuanced,” The Athletic’s Jovan Buha wrote on January 26. “There are players the Lakers would include him in deals to acquire. If they could add a bona fide third star to complement [Lebron] James and [Anthony] Davis – Utah All-Star Lauri Markannen, for example – or multiple high-level starters in a bigger trade, they would consider moving Reaves.”

Top trade target, Atlanta Hawks star Dejounte Murray does not fit the criteria, per Buha.

Neither do the likes of DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls and “players in a similar rage”.

Markkanen, 26, is the reigning Most Improved Player, coming off his first All-Star campaign in his first season with the Utah Jazz. A former lottery pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Markkanen began his career with the Bulls, who traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland traded him Utah for Donovan Mitchell ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The 7-foot Markkanen is averaging 23.8 points on a career-high 64.2% true shooting mark, including a 39.4% clip on 8.0 threes per game which are both career highs.

He is in the third year of a four-year, $67.5 million contract. And, although the second year of the deal is only partially guaranteed for the 2024-25 season, the Jazz are just 23-23 this season and Markkanen has been mentioned in trade rumors.

Prying him loose from Utah could be difficult for multiple reasons, though.

‘Consensus’ is Lauri Markkanen Remains With Jazz

“Leading up to the G League Showcase, Utah’s Lauri Markkanen became the subject of trade speculation,” HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto wrote on December 22. “Following the event, there appears to be more of a consensus regarding his future.

“A majority of NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype believe Markkanen will remain in Utah for several reasons: He wants to stay in Utah, the price tag for him is too high with his looming free agency, and he can renegotiate and extend his contract after the season. Multiple executives called the thought of Markkanen being traded ‘wishful thinking.’”

The Lakers’ lack of readily available draft capital handicaps them some as well. Their future first-round picks carry value due to the roster being led by a 39-year-old star, though.

“You can stop calling about Lauri Markkanen. It’s not happening. Not yet, anyway. The Jazz and Markkanen will work on a long-term extension this summer and the most likely outcome is he stays with Utah on a max,” Action Network’s Matt Moore wrote on January 21. “But that’s a summer question and there’s no shot the Jazz trade Markkanen before the deadline.”

Given the rarity with which players of that caliber come available in their prime, and the cost to acquire him, Markkanen is indeed wishful thinking for the Lakers, even if was on the trade block

Lakers’ Trade Options Could Be Limited

The other players the Lakers would consider trading don’t hold much value around the league, further complicating matters. For example, they would have to re-route D’Angelo Russell to a third team to acquire Murray from the Hawks.

Rui Hachimura and Gabe Vincent have dealt with injuries for much of the season. The latter is still working his way back from a knee issue.

Buha reported a “40 percent chance” that Russell will be with the team beyond the deadline.

Russell’s upward trend has raised the bar in terms of acceptable returns in a trade. But that could work against the Lakers if they were already having trouble finding a taker for the ninth-year guard.