Austin Reaves is having a breakout sophomore campaign for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since Feb. 9 (17 games), Reaves — coming off a season-saving 35-point performance — is averaging 15.6 points and 4.3 assists on .581/.434/.81o shooting splits while among the league leaders in free throws attempted thanks to his rapidly improving footwork and aggression. He’s a versatile, scrappy defender who has drawn the seventh-most charges in the NBA despite missing 18 games.

The 24-year-old has become arguably the Lakers’ third-best player, a reliable crunch-time staple, and a fan favorite. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.

As heartbroken as Lakers Nation would be to see Reaves in another uniform, more production, of course, means more money. The Arkansas native, earning $1.6 million in 2022-23, is set to hit restricted free agency in July, and there’s no guarantee the Lakers will be able to retain him, for a combination of the following reasons expertly laid out by Bleacher Report’s salary cap guru, Eric Pincus.

Why the Lakers may not be able to keep Austin Reaves


3) His original two-year deal

Reaves originally signed a two-way contract but the Lakers swiftly converted that to a standard two-year contract (he made an immediate impression in pre-training camp scrimmages).

The Lakers could have avoided Reaves hitting the open market until 2024 had they given him a three-year deal, using leftover money from the taxpayer midlevel exception given to Kendrick Nunn, who missed the entire 2021-22 season and was shipped out in January. As Pincus notes, the Lakers took the same approach with Talen Horton-Tucker and Max Christie (the Lakers could have allocated funds given to Lonnie Walker IV — now out of the rotation — to a third Christie year).