It’s rare for undrafted free agents to have a rise as meteoric as the one Austin Reaves has experienced. After going undrafted in 2021, Reaves has turned into a major contributor to the Los Angeles Lakers, as he earned a role in the team’s starting lineup on their run to the Western Conference Finals this past season and was able to parlay that into a 4-year, $54 million extension with L.A. this offseason.
As it turns out, Reaves came very close to plying his trade elsewhere and losing his title of being an undrafted free agent. As he explained during a cameo on the “All the Smoke” podcast, the Detroit Pistons were interested in taking him with the 42nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but it was made clear this was not Reaves’ preferred outcome.
“We could have got drafted 42nd to Detroit, but declined that to put me in LA… I didn’t really have to hear my name called… It was all about playing the long game.”
Austin Reaves really bet on himself by going undrafted 🙌
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) July 20, 2023
“I knew what I was capable of doing, the skillset, IQ, stuff like that,” Reaves said of going undrafted. “So it was really just about — my agency put me in a good position to, you know, have all of that. We could got drafted 42nd to Detroit, but kind of declined that to to kind of put me in L.A. for a better spot.”
As Reaves explained, in the lead-up to the Draft, teams were tiered based on how good of a fit they would have been for what he could do. The Lakers, he said, were second on the list behind the Milwaukee Bucks, but regardless, Los Angeles was a tier one team for him.
“It was, like I said, really trying to put me in a position to be able to get a roster spot,” Reaves said. “We knew there was a high interest for a two-way, so we didn’t really have to press, and that’s what everything in the Draft would have been from 42 and on, would have been basically a two-way agreement.”
Reaves said that he wanted to hear his name called at the Draft, which did not happen, but our hunch is he’s pretty happy with how things turned out.