Lakers

Reaves Has Replaced Russell as Lakers’ 3rd Star

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Despite finding themselves in an incredulous 0-3 hole to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the emergence of a third star has fallen into the laps of Laker fans — Austin Reaves.

With less-than-ideal production from D’Angelo Russell throughout these playoffs, Reaves’ stellar play has bolstered him into an integral part of this LA rotation.

And it’s only his second year in the league!

BRIGHT LIGHTS AREN’T BRIGHT ENOUGH FOR REAVES

There has been a recurring theme of talented role players crumbling under the bright lights of the playoffs. Many have even admitted honestly to that being the case.

But for Reaves, not only has he risen to the occasion, he’s completely outdone all expectations that one would normally have for a second-year undrafted player in his first-ever conference finals, much less playoffs.

Reaves’ averages by series:

  • MEM (6 Games): 16.5 pts | 5.3 reb | 5.0 ast | 44.7 FG% | 34.4 3PT% | 83.3 FT% | +62
  • GSW (6 Games): 14.3 pts | 4.2 reb | 3.7 ast | 41.8 FG% | 45.2 3PT% | 88.9 FT% | +20
  • DEN (3 Games): 22.7 pts | 4.0 reb | 6.0 ast | 55.0 FG% | 56.5 3PT% | 100.0 FT% | -5
  • TOTAL (15 Games): 16.9 pts | 4.6 reb | 4.7 ast | 45.9 FG% | 44.2 3PT% | 88.7 FT% | +77

The Memphis series included a game in which he single handedly put the Lakers over the top in the series opener (his playoff debut!). Against the Warriors, he provided consistent energy on defense and reliable shot making all series. And in this Nuggets series, he is just finding his spots, making shots and playmaking at will.

Many organizations would never ask this out of someone in Austin Reaves‘ position, but the Lakers’ scouting department yet again struck gold with this one.

So with this sudden emergence — and much-needed output from a role player — how could have LAL utilized ‘Him’ more to turn this Denver series around?

MAKE IT AUSTIN’S OFFENSE

It is no question that the majority of Los Angeles’ problems stem from D-Lo’s inability to produce on offense. There has been much speculation that a lineup change sending Russell to the bench is inevitable, but other options at point guard aren’t working out either.

Why not let Reaves handle the ball and run the offense?

He has shown consistently that he is fully capable of high-IQ decision-making when being tasked with creating with the rock in his hand.

According to the NBA’s advanced stats metrics, Reaves averages 0.90 points per possession when he is the ball handler running a pick and roll. This is good for fourth overall among players that are still in the playoffs — Jamal Murray (1.22), Jayson Tatum (1.05) and Jimmy Butler (0.95) rank ahead — in a minimum of 69 possessions. (D’Angelo Russell ranks fifth in this list)

Needless to say, Reaves has been one of the best playmakers in all of this year’s playoffs and getting the ball in his hands for a greater amount of time earlier in this series to run the offense could have proven more beneficial for LA.

The only thing that has been missing for the Lakers in this series has been their half-court offense. Their defense has been brilliant and scoring in transition will always be a plus. But when the game slows down and they must score in the half court, they can’t.

If Darvin Ham and the Lakers choose to move away from Russell and continue to lessen his minutes this series, it is absolutely essential that they put their offense in the hands of an undrafted second-year player who is making $1.5 mil/year in the Western Conference Finals… as baffling as that sounds.

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