Reaves has gone from an undrafted free agent to one of the stars for Team USA in the 2023 FIBA World Cup with his rise within the Lakers’ ranks in between.
“He makes the team, and then he starts to play more and more,” said Fox Sports 1 personality Skip Bayless on “Undisputed” on August 31. “That first year, he shoots 32% from three, and last year he shot 40% from three. It’s Jalen hurts-like where, all of a sudden, you transform yourself at the highest level into a very accurate passer.”
Hurts was a second-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2020 draft. Similar to Reaves, his ascension is largely attributed to his improved accuracy, going from completing 52% of his passes as a rookie to 61.3% in his second season.
Last season, Hurts completed 66.5% of his passes and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Skip Bayless Marvels at Austin Reaves’ Development
Bayless, a noted Oklahoma Sooners fan, lamented that he did not see this level of player in Reaves while the latter was in college.
He said Reaves was “not an NBA guy” and predicted that he would go undrafted.
“I’ve never seen anything like the Austin Reaves from college and what he turned into in pro basketball,” Bayless said. “It’s like Brock Purdy for the 49ers where I watched him a lot at Iowa State and I saw none of this that I saw last year in San Francisco.”
Purdy went from being the last pick of the draft in 2022 – a draft slot adoringly called “Mr. Irrelevant” in the sports world – to going 5-0 for the San Francisco 49ers last season.
Reaves was indeed undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2021 despite earning All-Big 12 honors. But he said he turned down an offer from the Detroit Pistons to get drafted in the second round – No. 42 overall – for a two-way contract, choosing instead to bank on himself making an NBA roster.
Last season, Reaves averaged 13.0 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 39.8% from beyond the arc. As a full-time starter over the final 10 games of the regular season, Reaves averaged 18.3 points and shot 48.6% from deep with 6.1 assists and 3.3 boards.
He was even better in the playoffs, averaging 21.6 points and shooting 60% on 6.0 threes per game over the Lakers’ last five games including shooting 58.6% in the Western Conference Finals.
Skip Bayless: LeBron James ‘Can Trust’ Austin Reaves
“LeBron [James] loves this kid because he knows how to play basketball,” Bayless said. “He almost always makes the correct play. And LeBron, who has the highest IQ still in all of basketball feeds off that because he can trust it.”
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham certainly trusts Reaves, naming him the team’s starting shooting guard, the role he manned to much success at the end of last season.
Reaves is averaging 11.8 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 54.5% from long distance through four games in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. He had 12 points, two assists, and two rebounds in Team USA’s 85-73 victory over Montenegro on September 1 and will next take the court on September 3 against Lithuania.
Josh Buckhalter covers the NBA for Heavy.com with a focus on the Bulls and Lakers. He’s based in Villa Park, Illinois. Follow Josh on Twitter/Instagram: @JoshGBuck and reach him via email at [email protected]. More about Josh Buckhalter
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