Austin Reaves will come off of the bench for the first time this season as the Lakers have made a change to their starting lineup, coach Darvin Ham announced ahead of Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Replacing him in the starting lineup will be free-agent addition Cam Reddish.
Reaves was arguably the third-best player the Los Angeles Lakers had when they made a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals last season. His combination of scoring, playmaking and passable defense on a team that badly needed all three traits made him one of the breakout players of the 2022-23 season. He was so successful last year that, despite being a second-year undrafted free agent, he earned a roster spot for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup over the summer and largely played well in that tournament.
But this season has been a bit of a struggle for Reaves thus far. He opened the year shooting 9-of-30 from the field in the Lakers' first three games. While he had seemingly bounced back to average a relatively efficient 17.3 points per game in his next four, a 2-of-9 shooting performance against the Rockets in a 34-point loss hasn't seem to have done him any favors.
The Lakers can seemingly live with poor offense out of the Reaves slot in the lineup, though Reddish has been significantly worse. In eight games, he is shooting a pathetic 30.6% from the floor and 12.5% from deep. But Reddish has played far better defensively than Reaves, who has looked sluggish off of that Team USA run in the Philippines. As a result, he has seemingly lost his starting job for the time being.
It is unclear how long this move will last for the Lakers. A big part of their defensive struggles has been the absence of Jarred Vanderbilt. When he returns, he will likely regain his starting position. Reaves, as an extra offensive weapon, makes far more sense alongside Vanderbilt than Reddish or Prince does. But the Lakers likely felt they could not afford to be stagnant given the way they have opened games thus far this season. So far, the Lakers are the worst first-quarter team in NBA history. In eight first quarters, they have been outscored by an NBA-record 74 points.
They're hoping this change sparks some life for a struggling starting lineup, but given the way Reddish has performed offensively, it certainly seems like they're just trading one problem for another.