Austin Reaves hears the whispers: “He’s not athletic.” ... “His three-point shooting declined in college.”
The combo guard, who is scheduled to work out for the 76ers on Wednesday, isn’t surprised by folks questioning his game. Nor should anyone who followed Reaves’ career since his days at Cedar Ridge High School in Newark, Ark.
Despite scoring 72 points in a game and leading the Timberwolves to three state titles, Reaves only had Division I scholarship offers from Wichita State, South Dakota State and Arkansas State.
While he eventually played two seasons at Wichita State, his dream was to play in a Power 5 conference. So despite only starting in 11 games, Reaves transferred to Oklahoma after his sophomore season.
As a Sooner, he proved to be more versatile than his catch-and-shoot role for the Shockers. As a redshirt junior, Reaves recorded a season-high 41 points in a 78–76 victory over TCU en route to being named to the All-Big 12 Newcomer Team.
Now, Reaves, 23, is trying to quash concerns about his athleticism and long-range shooting in predraft workouts.
Following solid workouts, he’s regarded as a second-round sleeper in the July 29 NBA draft. The Sixers have the 28th and 50th picks in the draft, which will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Everything has been positive so far,” Reaves said of the feedback he’s received at predraft workouts. “They like the way I compete. They like the way I play, and I’d say most of them have said my athleticism and the way that I move is better than they thought it was before coming here.
“So a lot of good feedback on the things I have been doing during these workouts.”
It’s similar to the reactions he received at Wichita State and Oklahoma once arriving on campus.
“I got it basically my whole life,” Reaves said. “People just underestimating me, [thinking] I’m not as good of an athlete that I am.”
The 6-foot-6, 197-pounder was in Atlanta on Monday, working out for the Hawks. Last week, he had workouts with the New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks. FollowingWednesday’s Sixers workout, Reaves will visit the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
Reaves has already worked out for the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks. In all, he will have worked out for 18 NBA teams at least once during the predraft process.
Reaves averaged career highs of 18.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 86.5% shooting from the foul line last season at Oklahoma. He led the NCAA Division I in the percentage of jump shots taken off the dribble with 83%.
The big-time offensive talent is blessed with the knack for scoring. He also has an uncanny ability to get defenders off-balance while getting to his spots, and he has solid court vision.
However, Reaves’ outside shooting has regressed.
He shot 50.9% on three-pointers (28-of-55) as a freshman at Wichita State. The following season his numbers dropped to 42.5% (54-of-127). After a sitting out a transfer season in 2018-19, Reaves made just 25.9% on his three-pointers (42-of-162) as a redshirt junior at Oklahoma. He shot 30.5% (32-of-105) this past season.
“At Wichita State, probably 95% of my shots were catch-and-shoot good looks,” he said. “Then going to Oklahoma, I shot more off-the-dribble, late-in-the-shot-clock threes. Like I said, late in the shot clock. So tougher shots. I didn’t get as many opportunities to catch-and-shoot the way defenses were playing me.
“But that’s not a good excuse. I got to knock down the shots I’m taking. But that’s what I would say would be the main factor in that.”
In addition to displaying long-range shooting touch and athleticism, Reaves hopes to show leadership qualities during his workouts and team interviews.
For him, the workouts are more about being a good person, a good teammate and a vocal leader. Yet, Reaves is confident he can contribute right away in a reserve role for the Sixers or another NBA team.
“Just buying into a role,” he said. “[The Sixers] have a really good team as it is right now, but just being someone that’s going in to compete every single day. Someone that can play the one and the two, play on and off the ball just to give others a little break from on the ball or just make catch-and-shoot shots to release pressure from Ben Simmons to Joel Embiid. ...
“Just doing whatever it takes help the team be successful.”