The Los Angeles Lakers have turned their season around.
They have won eight of their last 10 games and began a six-game tour 2-0. Will his season go back in the wrong direction? It’s anyone’s guess, but for now the Lakers are one of the best teams in the NBA.
success starts with his best player, Anthony Davis. He has scored fewer than 30 points in just three of the Lakers’ last 10 games. His MVP-level play has been the catalyst for the Lakers’ winning ways, but every element of the team has contributed. One of the biggest has been last season’s undrafted free agent signing, Austin Reaves.
Davis was spectacular in the Lakers’ stunning 133-129 win on the road Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. He outclassed Giannis Antetokounmpo by scoring 44 points on 67 percent shooting from the field and making some timely defensive plays. He was also one of two Lakers to play the entire fourth quarter.
Reaves was the other. He only registered one assist in the fourth, and would have gotten another if he hadn’t missed a beautiful corner 3-pointer he set up. In defense he was active, but without a stopper. Reaves was the star of the show during the Lakers victory on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers with his 22 points. He only scored seven against the Bucks, but he was over 17 on the night.
For the season, the Lakers His offensive rating is 6.2 points per 100 possessions better when Reaves is on the floor and his defensive rating is only a couple of points worse. He is working his way into 50/40/90 territory with his 10.4 points per game on 53.4/38.7/91.3 shooting splits while playing 28.7 minutes per game.
Reaves is also the only Laker to have played in every game this season.
He was pressured into action as a rookie last year. out of desperation on a list that lacked depth. Reaves became a constant collaborator almost immediately. Starting the Lakers Game 6, when he was healthy, he was consistently on the court for 20 minutes or more per game. A hamstring injury and a season on the Health and Safety Protocols list cost him a lot of time early in the season, but starting on New Year’s Eve he was a staple on the Laker line up the rest of the way.
Like most rookies, he struggled with his shooting and on the defensive end of the court. During the 2022 portion of last season’s schedule, he only attempted 5.4 field goals per game and still shot 45.1 percent from the floor. Plus, he was only averaging two free throw attempts perand this is with Davis missing a great deal of time due to injury.
However, the strengths he displayed in Oklahoma moved up the league. He is a tall and crafty scorer who can be trusted not to panic with the ball in his hands. It was only a matter of time before his shooting percentages improved. What the Lakers needed from him, especially if he was going to play significant minutes, was for him to be more aggressive.
Since the Lakers began this successful streak, Reaves has averaged seven shots per game and nearly four free throw attempts. As he has increased his activity with the ball in his hands, so has his shooting percentage: 60 / 46.7 / 92.3. Also, his assists have increased and his turnovers have decreased.
For all that the Lakers’ roster lacks, they have found a key contributor in this 24-year-old from Newark, Ark. A young player they can trust to be where he’s supposed to be and not make devastating mistakes. . Add in the fact that an already efficient scorer becomes even more efficient with more touches with a higher workload, who the hell needs a first-round pick.
If the Lakers’ winning form is to continue into their next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rest of their road trip and beyond, Davis will of course have to continue his dominance. But the Lakers will also have to squeeze as much production as they can out of young Reaves.