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He even notched 11 assists to pair with 25 points and was integral to Los Angeles’ win over the Suns. Those 25 weren’t just hot shooting from behind the arc either. He started off by putting Chris Paul on the menu, using his body to bump Chris Paul off of him, draw a foul, hang in the air for an extra tick and drop a slick pull-up.

But Reaves’ emergence is also a necessary superlative on Rob Pelinka’s resume. The paucity of homegrown, young talent on the Lakers roster since the 2019 purge has always made Lakers fans cynical of the LeBron-Pelinka era. Reaves would be the first homegrown talent to pop in L.A. since Alex Caruso. Caruso earned his place in the league as a contemporary Billy Hoyle-grade combo guard who emphasized lockdown defense and occasionally flashed “sneaky athleticism.” But he wasn’t generating offense off the dribble at a high-volume capacity, thriving in pick-and-rolls with Davis and getting to the line.

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Happy accidents

Late draft picks and undrafted free agents can change the trajectories of franchises in more unexpected ways than overspending on free agents. An extreme example is the Golden State Warriors and Draymond Green. Or more modestly, the New Jersey Nets finding a Benjamin on the sidewalk in the form of Stephen Jackson circa 2001. Since 2020, the Lakers have relied on more stringers and free agent temps than most of the league’s 30 regional of franchise-offices. The return of D’Angelo Russell was a popular move because it was the triumphant return of a player they’d grown attached to after he was shipped out to make room for them to draft Lonzo Ball in 2017.

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Former Laker second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker’s microwave scoring and ridiculous wingspan earned him the adoration of Laker Nation and tricked Pelinka into prioritizing him over Caruso, but he could only dribble to one side and his 27-percent career 3-point shooting had a dampening effect on the floor spacing. Discovering a playmaking wing though could be a boost for a Laker team that probably won’t contend next year, but needed to find a complementary piece for their 2024 run. Reaves might be better than complementary, though.

In his last 11 games since March 1, he’s registered 18 points, five boards, attempting eight free throws per contest while posting lots of 56 percent from the field, 37 percent from distance, and draining 83 percent of his freebies from the charity stripe. Of course, Reaves’ timing makes him more expensive to keep in purple and gold as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Defenses will adjust to Reaves’ tendencies and then we’ll see what he’s made of, but contemplating teams shifting a small percentage of their focus and effort on a contributor, who isn’t Russell or Davis or LeBron is a positive.

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The Lakers will also have to shift a higher percentage of their salary cap to Reaves as well. He’s played well enough that the Lakers reportedly will be ready and willing to offer him a max contract in the four-year, $50 million range this offseason or go higher to match if he agrees to a lucrative offer sheet elsewhere.

Reaves hasn’t reached Caruso earning the fourth-highest tally among guards in the All-Star voting in the hypebeast machine, but if Caruso and some forward named Anthony Davis can lead a Bron-less squad to the postseason or play-in, he’ll do two things. Reaves will earn a place in Laker lore, secure a future on the roster and provide some nutrients in the empty-calorie roster assembled around LeBron for this season and beyond.

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Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex.