Lakers analysis: Austin Reaves 3-point shot is better than you think

It didn’t take Austin Reaves long to go from perceived luxury to pure necessity for the Lakers last year.

The undrafted guard turned heads in his rookie season not with outward flash or drive, but rather with his ability to bridge the gaps between stars and veterans on the team with his wide array of utilities.

Through his scrappy defense, nuanced offensive skills and sheer hustle, Reaves came across as the Lakers’ own roll of human duct tape. Whenever a lineup, lineup or game issue arose – which it often did – it was the 24-year-old who was hit on it in hopes of being able to patch up any flaws around him.

It was a lot of responsibility and a bigger role than Reaves probably expected in a team with championship aspirations. But he was game at every turn. This did not come without drawbacks, however.

The added wear and tear on top of the hurdles that naturally come with adapting to the NBA likely impacted several aspects of Reaves’ individual play over the year. The area that was arguably the most affected was his 3-point shot.

From the box, Reaves’ 31.5% shooting from beyond the arc last season definitely left a lot to be desired. And for good reason. However, it’s also a number that requires a lot more context, which when zoomed in, suggests both dormant capacity and room for improvement.

For example, when deleting trash and heave time, Reaves actually fired all three bullets at a 33% more palatable clip according to Cleaning the Glass. While still not up to the league average, it highlights how Reaves’ raw percentage got bogged down simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

According to league tracking data, 8.2% of Reaves’ 3-point attempts came very late in the shot clock (four seconds or less) last season. This rating was the highest percentage on the team.

This manifested due to the rookie often throwing caution — and his numbers — to the wind with bombs all over the field at the end of quarters. He was also the victim of several “grenades” from his teammates – disadvantageous passes that forced Austin to hoist a prayer late in the clock.

The combination of heaves and friendly fire resulted in Reaves converting just 19.2% of those attempts, dropping his overall percentage by 3 points in the process.

Other than those suboptimal shots, a big part of Reaves’ looks in his debut campaign actually consisted of quality chances.

As one of the team’s main benefactors of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook’s play and driving seriousness, Reaves ranked in the 95th percentile in the league in shooting quality (measures the location, opening and type) according to The BBall-Index.

Unfortunately, Reaves also struggled to convert those looks at a healthy pace, as he kept just 34.8% of open opportunities (defender at least six feet) on the year.

However, these misfires were not always the norm. In fact, we may be able to pinpoint exactly when — and more importantly why — Reaves crashed right into the dreaded so-called “rookie wall.”

As the chart below illustrates, the biggest drop in Reaves’ shots took place from early January to late March.

Alex’s rule

It was also around this time that Reaves’ minutes became normalized as an integral part of the rotation. Along with this, Reaves also began to see a drastic increase in the amount of ground he covered on the pitch per month, with his miles logged in January and again in March.

The sudden increase in energy effort, as well as the amount of basketball played, is something the rookie himself admitted factoring into his shooting abandonment.

“Probably a bit of everything,” Reaves recently told Athletic. “I have never played a season of more than 37 games – 40 games at the most. So I played 61 games this year, but the season 82 games, and I was still traveling when I wasn’t playing. So that’s definitely a thing.

Those on the player performance side of basketball operations have attempted to track exactly when a player typically reaches their breaking point, with some theorizing that it occurs when a rookie exceeds the number of games they have previously played. at the college level, or once they are halfway through the NBA season.

The Lakers’ 38th game of the season came on Jan. 2, which nearly coincided with Reaves’ shooting decline and marked his most games played in a season in his pre-pro career.

Heading into the new year, Reaves actually punched 39% of his wide-opening attempts. However, in that three-month period leading up to April — where his mileage was highest — Reaves was only able to convert 29.6% of his chances.

Looking back at Reaves’ 105 3-point attempts over that span (which alone equaled his production with Oklahoma in his senior year), a pattern immediately emerged regarding the majority of his failures. – they tended to be quite short.

Although he never hinted at it, the physical side of the game had begun to crumble on Reaves. His misfires barely brushed the front of the rim, and his legs, which probably felt like blocks of cement during that stretch, served as proof. Not only was he playing more, he was also trying harder.

According to data from the league’s Second Spectrum, among the Lakers who played at least 50 games last season, Reaves covered the sixth-most miles, took the third-most shots, posted the second-speed fastest average in defense and led the team in overall average speed. And for good measure, Reaves also drew the most charges in his entire rookie class.

In an attempt to be everything, everywhere and all at once, Reaves’ body was often found banging against hardwood for loose balls and was physically punished by stronger opposition on a nightly basis. The latter was honored this summer.

“That’s my big priority,” Reaves revealed to Jovan Buha. “I go there every day with a good attitude, and whatever they tell me to do, I do. I just put my body in the best position for the rookie wall or whatever, that don’t hit yourself like that. And you can get away with it more because you’re in better shape and better conditioned.

Reaves has reportedly put on an extra 12 pounds already in hopes of improving his defensive versatility and enduring the rigors of an 82-game season. This increase in strength is also something that Lakers co-owner and assistant general manager Jesse Buss believes will help him become a “more consistent perimeter shooter.”

Time will tell if Reaves’ struggles with his shot were indicative of future rattling, or simply the last young player to adjust to his new surroundings.

Peripherals, such as his catching and shooting numbers in college as well as his impressive touch around the rim and marksmanship from the free-throw line last season suggest that Reaves has the tangible tools any good shooter has. requires.

Perhaps more importantly, Reaves is also confident in himself – and in his shot – to let no miss or excuse stop him from letting it fly when needed.

“At the end of the day, I felt like there was no excuse for me to miss any shots,” Reaves also shared with Athletic. “I have to make shots, even if it’s late in the year, early in the year, whatever it is. I have confidence in myself, with all the work I have put in, to get shots in these situations.

There’s no doubt that Reaves has hit the rookie wall hard this year. Although this is not due to a lack of ability, but more because that is simply how he approaches basketball. That’s how it’s wired. Full steam ahead, body and misses be damned.

Fortunately, all indications are that his bumps and bruises have since healed, and he’s set to find a lot more of the back of the net this coming season.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.

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