Lakers Urged to Bench $78 Million Disappointment for Austin Reaves

Lakers guard Austin Reaves drives on Raptors forward Gary Trent Jr.

Getty Lakers guard Austin Reaves drives on Raptors forward Gary Trent Jr.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been urged to bench their $78 million starter for Austin Reaves.

In a December 8 article called “NBA Starting Lineup Changes That Need to Happen,” Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes advised the Lakers to bench Patrick Beverley and start Reaves next to Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker IV, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“Beverley is currently committing 5.1 personal fouls per 100 possessions, fourth-worst among the 81 guards who’ve logged at least 25.0 minutes per game this season. His style helps put teams into the bonus early, which can cripple a defense. And he’s actually made a significant improvement over his foul rates of the last several years. Viewed in that context, history suggests the issue could get even worse,” Hughes wrote. “Even if you’re not convinced the 6’5″ Reaves and the 6’1” Beverley are at worst comparable on D, the other end of the floor settles the issue. Pat Bev is making just 38.5 percent of his twos and 22.0 percent of his threes, unfathomably low percentages for an undersized guard who also isn’t his team’s primary distributor. This is a full-on ‘What would you say you do here?’ situation.

“Reaves, meanwhile, is at 65.8 percent on twos and 36.4 percent on threes while more than doubling Beverley’s points per game in roughly equal playing time. Don’t forget the little things, either. Reaves makes a handful of shrewd reads every game to help the Lakers on the margins. Beverley has far more experience, but he’s almost strictly a spot-up threat who isn’t hitting anything from the perimeter and commits too many overly aggressive errors. This isn’t complicated.”

Beverley has really struggled for the Lakers this season. The Chicago native is averaging just 4.2 points while shooting 27.1% from the field and 22.0% from beyond the arc. Beverley has a plus-minus of -13.

Reaves, meanwhile, has played well for the Lakers. The second-year guard is averaging 10.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 50.6% overall and 34.7% on 3s. Reaves has a plus-minus of +17.

The Lakers Are Looking to Trade Beverley

The Lakers acquired Beverley from the Utah Jazz in August. However, the Arkansas product may not be around for much longer. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers are looking to package Beverley and Kendrick Nunn in a trade. Los Angeles may also move All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.

“The Lakers’ updated timeline on beginning to explore trade options is Dec. 15, and they are weighing three different paths, multiple team sources told The Athletic,” Buha wrote on December 1. “Here’s what you need to know: Path 1 is to trade Russell Westbrook, plus a pick or two, for a star or multiplayer haul. Path 2 is to trade some combination of Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and picks (one first-round and/or multiple second-round picks) for role players who better address needs and upgrade the rotation. Path 3 would be two separate deals: one with Westbrook plus one first-round pick, another using a Beverley-Nunn-pick package.”

Beverley, Nunn and Westbrook become unrestricted free agents after this season, so it makes sense for the Lakers to try to get something in return for the three underperforming guards.

Buha: Reaves Is the Lakers’ 3rd Most Important Player

Buha believes Reaves is the Lakers’ third-most important player behind James and Davis. The 24-year-old is in all of Los Angeles’ net-positive lineups.

“One clear observation is that Reaves is the common denominator in all net-positive lineups,” Buha wrote on December 8. “At 6-foot-5, Reaves is the tallest of the guards. Remove him, and every other three-guard combination is a net negative. Despite his shooting struggles in Cleveland and Toronto, Reaves remains the Lakers’ third most important player because his versatile skill set allows him to adapt to and improve any lineup.”