Brock Purdy’s rise from last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft to established starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers bears few parallels in the sport — except perhaps in the NBA, where Austin Reaves has enjoyed a similar rise from undrafted to maybe the Der for the past two seasons most important player of the Los Angeles Lakers is neither LeBron James nor Anthony Davis.
Skip Bayless made the comparison between Purdy and Reaves on Thursday’s episode of “Undisputed,” alongside his new co-star, three-time NFL pro bowler Keyshawn Johnson, and longtime NBA analyst Rachael Nichols as guests.
“I’ve never seen anything like it [difference between] “Austin Reaves in college and what he became in pro basketball,” Bayless said. “It’s like [Purdy], where I watched him many times in Iowa State and saw nothing like what I saw in San Francisco last year. …Austin Reaves in Oklahoma, I’ve watched most of his games because I’m a Sooner fan. He shot 28% from the college three-point line… Nobody drafted him.
“Then he came here and I was like, ‘Austin Reaves is on this Lakers roster?'”
But as Bayless watched Reaves’ meteoric rise last season and the Lakers’ unlikely playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, he saw similarities between the combo guard and another notable NFL quarterback.
“All of a sudden, he was 32% shooting out of three hits the first year and 40% shooting out of three last year,” Bayless continued. “It’s like Jalen Hurts where you suddenly transform at the highest level.”
“LeBron loves this boy (Reaves) because he knows how to play basketball,” Bayless added. “He almost always makes the right play, and LeBron — who still has the highest IQ in all of basketball — feeds on it because he can trust it.”
“Then, as the playoffs progressed, Austin Reaves suddenly was the better player for this team because when they needed a big shot, he got it.”
Johnson, a Los Angeles native and former USC football star who follows the Lakers closely both as a fan and as a local sports radio host, pointed out that thanks to the four, the team — and its top superstar — understand what Reaves means to them -Signed $56 million annual contract to remain with the team in limited free agency.
“Last year he kind of came on stage; LeBron James agreed and said, ‘I can play with this guy,’ and then all of a sudden he just kept getting better and better,” Johnson said. “He was very important to our success in the postseason at both ends of the floor. He had a few patchy shots, but once he got hot, the rest was history. … He’s a complementary shooter to LeBron James and in LeBron’s career he is.” [has] had riflemen around.”
Johnson also anticipates a significantly improved Lakers roster next season compared to last season, when the Lakers struggled ahead of a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline that included the elimination of point guard Russell Westbrook and his replacement by D’ Angelo Russell included, which opened up Reaves’ take on a bigger ball-handling role.
The Lakers re-signed Russell, Reaves and fellow playoff player Rui Hachimura, and took the team option to contract Jarred Vanderbilt earlier, meaning the Lakers have all five starters and their key reserve (Hachimura) from the postseason of last have kept the season running.
Austin Reaves’ growing importance to the Lakers is comparable to Brock Purdy and Jalen Hurts
NBA Champions by Year: Complete List of NBA Finals Winners
NBA front office confidential: How does James Harden’s trade saga end?
“Undisputed” returns on Monday and introduces a new cast of Michael Irvin, Richard Sherman and Keyshawn Johnson
FIBA World Championship 2023 odds: USA remain the big favorite to win
The USA defeat Jordan 110-62 in the final group stage game of the FIBA World Championship
NBA Playoff Series 2023 Rankings: Updated Schedule, NBA Finals Results, Dates
NBA Trade Classes 2023: Suns, Mavs, Rockets are making waves this summer
Luka Doncic and Mavericks play pre-season game against Real Madrid
Get more from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites for updates on games, news and more