Not surprisingly, the Lakers look sluggish coming out of the gates to start the season. After turning over about 75% of their roster from a season ago, it should not be surprising to see sloppy play, like delayed defensive reads or careless turnovers. The team is about a quarter into the season, but have been hovering around .500 so far. One of the biggest disappointments of this team is the lack of defensive awareness. A lot of that has to do with the impactful defensive players that left the team.
One of the biggest regrets the Lakers feel is letting defensive stalwart Alex Caruso walk. Team defense is currently ranked 20th in defensive rating, nothing like their stout defenses the past two seasons. Caruso is just one player, but his ability to stunt opposing offenses is something the Lakers simply miss. Over the past three seasons, Caruso was able to hide a lot of defensive efficiencies of the Lakers, and they are now on full display.
For a Q&A Caruso did with HoopsHype's Bryan Kalbrosky recently, he was asked his thoughts on the new rookie for the Lakers, Austin Reaves.
“I’ve seen a little bit! It’s apparent now – I didn’t realize this when I was on the Lakers – but social media shows all of the Lakers’ highlights. I didn’t think that was true until I got another team. But he [Reaves] appears to be one of those good glue guys that winning teams need. I think he’s a lot farther along than I was during my first year in the league. I think we have the same mindset of getting better and working hard. Hopefully, he can stick around.”
Similar to Caruso, Reaves found his way onto the roster via a two-way deal. Caruso and other role players set the blueprint for guys like Reaves to come into the league as undrafted players. They had numerous stints with the developmental league and honed their skills. Then they were able to attach attention to garner two-way deals, and seized on opportunities to force themselves onto NBA rotations.
Reaves is nowhere the player Caruso is right now. But like the Goat said, Reaves is definitely a better player than Caruso was when he was a rookie.