Austin Reaves just continues to impress with every opportunity he gets. The former Oklahoma star wasn't even drafted in 2021. He fought to make the Lakers roster after originally signing a two-way contract. He earned his position in the rotation, eventually grew into a starter, and is today somewhat easily the third-best player on the team.
But on Sunday, the emergence of the newest young Los Angeles Lakers star hit a new peak. With the Lakers in a closely contested fourth quarter in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Reaves exploded for 14 fourth-quarter points, including nine in a row to help clinch a 128-112 victory. In the process, he announced his presence to the rest of the league by shouting "I'm him!" as he clinched the victory.
Reaves is a second-year pro who came almost out of nowhere just to reach the NBA. Now he plays on a team with possibly the greatest player in NBA history in LeBron James as well as another max-contract point guard in D'Angelo Russell. That such a star-studded team would turn to him as its closer says everything that needs to be said about Reaves. He isn't just a role player. He's going to be a fixture in the NBA for years to come. The best players in the NBA took notice. Damian Lillard gave him his flowers while watching at home.
My bad … Reaves like that 🙏🏽— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 16, 2023
Trae Young was just as effusive.
Austin Reaves getting that bag this summer.. My boy cookin!!— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) April 16, 2023
As Young noted, Reaves is going to get a new contract as a restricted free agent this summer. It was already going to be a big one based on his regular-season performance. But now? Teams are going to look at him as a long-term core piece, and pay him accordingly. Austin Reaves is indeed "him."