Undrafted Free Agent: Austin Reaves
With the non-existent pick in the draft, the Lakers select...
Time efficiency is a thing when it comes to the draft. Mistime everything, and there’s lots to miss out on.
I went back to research Austin Reaves after spending enough time to get a feel for his game. Was there something new to find out?
Turns out there was. In prior articles, I had mentioned as Jaden Springer as one of my favorite players in the draft, and probably a guy that would slide down. He fell to the late 1st pick and got drafted by the 76ers.
What I didn’t know, was the one thing he had in common with both Joel Ayayi and Austin Reaves.
All three guys are at the top, without much separation between them at all.
Jacob Rude from @LakersSBN also added Synergy stats.
He Does The Thing
Ball handling is one of the things I look for, especially as a foundational skill set to grow from. Can the player speed dribble? Can he (or she) change directions? Change speeds? Some combination of all of the above? I dug into the tape even more, and found that Reaves does “the thing” that I look for out of ball-handlers.
Right-to-left behind the back, gives the appearance of using the screen instead of rejecting it.
Gets a step, goes right-to-left crossover on the big defender.
At the 8:54 mark (freeze), perfectly plants his right foot facing the hoop, which makes it a ton easier to contort his body to finish.
… and then he misses.
But here’s the thing. Flexibility, strength, and a degree of off-hand shooting dexterity can all be helped at the NBA level. The intuitive ability using shifts in speeds, multiple changes of direction, while eating up space? That is more difficult to teach. There are too many elements within the one drive to work on, as opposed to one specific aspect of strength to get more lift, or off-hand shooting to expand shooting from angles and getting a better shot.
Except, He’s Shown He Can Complete That Play
Jumping at the 16:29 mark (freeze) helps give him just a little more lift, while he uses his dominant hand at a tough angle to get the finish.
He can do it.
D E C E L E R A T I O N
Austin Reaves also shows some ability to create space, whether it’s mid-drive and closing out his final steps, or just a hard stop from the initial drive.
But here, Austin shows both!
Drive right, hit the brakes, crossover, drive left, reaccelerate, all leading to a 5’ shot with momentum towards the rim.
Here, Austin has room to operate, goes downhill. I froze where he hard-plants his feet, prior to creating real space for his pull up jumper.
He created real space.
These details; his deceleration, ability to reignite mid-drive, and change directions give him a very strong foundation to build off of when attacking the basket or creating space for his own shot.
Shot creation is a premium.
Of course, we’re not just looking for what he does best, but what also keeps him on the basketball floor. Fortunately, there’s a path to additional playing time. Now, he’s not a shot blocker, and these kind of plays don’t always show up on a stat sheet, but on-ball deflections to me, count as part of steal and block rates.
Here, we see Reaves in transition defending the rim, and swiping at the ball not only once, but twice, and killing the transition play.
Here, he recovers in full sprint transition, and kills the play again.
One of the more difficult aspects to defending players is defending off-ball. Players are caught between the position of their assignment on the floor, and wherever the ball is on the court. Austin does a solid job chasing shooters off of screens, trailing, not quitting on the play, and applying backpressure.
Here he defends the drive all the way through.
But what is his “Basketball Personality?”
This was certainly tougher to analyze than Ayayi. But, one thing really stood out. He puts his body on the line. Offensively, he seeks out the contact. He is a foul hunter. Sometimes fouls aren’t always called under the rim, but he has added some additional craft in going into his shot earlier (around the 7’-10’ mark) like Lou Williams and drawing that kind of foul. Sometimes he gets ambitious with his shot creativity around the rim. He’s just looking for any kind of opening to get a shot off a tough defense, where he’s usually covered by two or sometimes three defenders.
He has motor. It’s not the kind of motor that’ll reveal itself with rebounding rates, steal rates, or block rates. It’s the kind of motor where he’s trying to find any crack in the defense, and attack. Sometimes, it may lead to settling for the occasional jumpshot, but I don’t blame him. It’s really difficult to sustain high effort play with constant engagement on-the-ball. His motor doesn’t quit defensively either. He makes every effort to “swim” through every screen, stay attached to his assignment, and find any way to contest a shot.
It’s more difficult to separate the skill set from basketball behaviors, but he does opt into a hesitation move before the crossover, almost as a default move into initiating a drive.
This season though, was especially tough. There wasn’t a lot that came easy for Oklahoma, and it was rare to find times when I thought his scoring had an easy path. Next level, he may not be seen as a lead initiator. There may be more success in optimizing him initially as a 3-and-D role playing guard first and leading into a secondary initiating role next to more ball-dominant scorers.
Like Ayayi, strength would go far for him as well. The regular season in itself is a marathon, and strength would only help him make a stronger offensive presence as a rim threat. While Ayayi finds ways to sliver away from contact and find himself in ideal positions when it comes to rebounding and cutting to the hoop, Reaves is the guy that will use his shoulders, base, and any footwork to initiate the contact, create an open look, and get a decent shot.
These are the kind of players that tend to get late-1st to early-2nd round ratings in the draft.
The Lakers were really fortunate, not only to find this caliber of talent with two-way contracts, but also players that have great shots at making the roster.