Kelly Iko of The Athletic pondered the Rockets’ offseason plans, with Reaves’ name mentioned among other players who will be available.
“Former franchise player and current 76ers guard James Harden is the top target for Houston in free agency, according to league sources, representing the veteran leadership and elite point guard needed to establish structure and offensive cohesion,” Iko wrote. “Outside of Harden, other high-ranking targets for Houston include Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks and restricted free agents Cam Johnson and Austin Reaves, league sources said.”
Just two years ago, Reaves was hoping to be selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. That goal failed to materialize, though he was able to sign a two-way deal with the Lakers in August of that year.
Within a few months, Reaves had shown the Lakers enough that he was rewarded with a standard contract. That modest investment by the Lakers is now set to pay off big for Reaves, who will enter the open market after making nearly $1.6 million this season.
The Lakers have reportedly indicated that they’ll match any offer for Reaves. However, that issue could become problematic if the Rockets or some other team with greater cap flexibility makes an astounding offer for him.
As a rookie, Reaves started 19 of his 61 games. That status was helped by the fact that the injury-plagued Lakers had depth issues at guard.
During the 2022-23 regular season, Reaves’ numbers showed improvement and laid the groundwork for his breakout performance in the postseason.
In Reaves’ first playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies on April 16, he scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to help spark the Lakers to victory. That win helped spur the Lakers to a six-game upset and was followed by another six-game series victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Despite the four-game sweep by the Denver Nuggets that ended the Lakers’ season, Reaves turned out to be a valuable part of the team’s lineup. In those four contests, he averaged 21.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Getting Reaves signed for next season is obviously on the Lakers’ to-do list, and that motivation to secure a contract extension likely became even stronger after LeBron James hinted at possible retirement.
Right now, exactly how many teams have Reaves in their sights is unknown. Yet, it’s a much different scenario for him than just two years ago.