Without a doubt, shooting guard Austin Reaves has been fantastic for the Lakers since star forward LeBron James went down.
Reaves scored a career-high 35 points against the Magic to kick off the week, then was moved into a starting role for Wednesday’s game against the Suns. Reaves scored 25 and the Lakers won again.
So it’s safe to say the move made sense for coach Darvin Ham.
“I just think he’s maturing before our eyes as a high-level NBA player,” Ham said of Reaves, via Kyle Goon of the LA Daily News. “We always saw the talent. We always saw the glimpses. Big moments where he played really, really huge for us. Now it’s just more on a consistent basis. He’s comfortable.”
Reaves, 24, is in just his second NBA season. In 55 games, he’s averaging 12.3 points on 52 percent shooting, including 38 percent on 3-pointers. As Goon noted, he’s increased those averages to 17.7 points and 5.3 assists in the 11 games without James.
“He knows what spots he wants to get to,” Ham said. “He understands when things are kinda off-balance for us offensively. He knows how to get to the line. He knows how to make big plays, passes. Scraps in there, draws charges. He just does a little bit of everything.”
The Lakers (36-37) have won six of 10 and sit in 10th place in the crowded Western Conference — but just two games behind the fifth-place Clippers.
Ham’s decision to start Reaves has moved shooting guard Malik Beasley to the bench. But Ham said he wants Beasley to stay aggressive.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. Stay aggressive. Do what you do,” Ham said he told Beasley, via Goon. “Keep competing on the defensive end. But don’t get discouraged, man. … Just encouraging him to be aggressive, constantly be aggressive. Let him know that I’m all for him. I have his back.”
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