Should the Indiana Pacers pursue Lakers’ Austin Reaves in free agency?

Indiana Pacers, Austin Reaves - Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Austin Reaves - Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

Much of the anticipation around the Indiana Pacers as they face the impending offseason has revolved on the 2023 NBA Draft. Now, with the team’s positioning in the event officially revealed, we can now look forward to a more concrete layout of how the summer could unfold for the franchise.

However, the draft is only but one important avenue for Indiana in the following months. After all, as one of the few teams boasting substantial cap space, the Pacers should remain an important component in the market.

That being said, one of the free agents expected to command a significant raise this offseason is Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves, who has garnered a lot of attention and hype for his much-improved play as a bona fide two-way force for the Western Conference semifinalists this season. With that considered, should the Pacers pursue the undrafted guard this summer?

Should the Indiana Pacers make a run for Lakers guard Austin Reaves in free agency?

Lakers role players have always been perpetually overrated due to the large market-induced attention inflation, and while Austin Reaves may still not shed that label completely, he’s far from a red-flagged commodity in the free agent market.

While his regular season numbers are modest, Reaves has been impressive since becoming a fixture in the Lakers starting lineup this playoffs (which actually started in LA’s late-season run). In his postseason debut, the Oklahoma product has registered 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field, including a neat 43.2 percent mark on triples.

Reaves has been thriving as the Lakers’ Swiss Army knife, juggling roles as a designated shooter, occasional lead facilitator, and go-to perimeter defender. That has been evident in this year’s playoffs, where has shown his mettle against the likes of Desmond Bane, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole.

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He may still be overburdened as a featured third scoring option, but his other non-scoring skills have remained solid both from a numbers standpoint and in the eye test. Despite having LeBron James to yield to, Darvin Ham has been comfortable making Reaves the de facto  point guard at times, particularly when D’Angelo Russell is struggling.

On defense, allegations of exaggerating contact aside, Reaves has seen a lot of success with his heady ball-stopping ways. He may be overmatched at times due to his physique and average speed, but he makes up for it with impeccable timing, positioning, and awareness of players’ tendencies. Overall, he could be someone whom the Pacers can rely on to log heavy minutes in a featured role.

However, this is where the tricky part begins. As constructed, Indiana already has an embarrassment of riches in the backcourt — truth be told, they need streamlining much more than reinforcing in that regard. Even if the front office manages to offload Buddy Hield or Chris Duarte for much-needed in the frontcourt, the Pacers still do not have an urgent hole to warrant a significant investment on someone like Reaves, who will be more of a luxury than a necessity.

With reports surfacing about Reaves being expected to command hefty offer sheets in the offseason, the Pacers are obviously not going to get away with a cost-cutting approach even under the promise of a significant role. Reaves can get both role and money in another team, while the Lakers can always match an offer so long as it’s reasonable.

Ultimately, the Indiana Pacers should remain watchful and keep an eye on the Austin Reaves situation. It may not be the investment they need considering what they have on their plate, but should the stars align, he could be a player who deserves more than just due diligence from the front office.

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