One of the few reasons Lakers fans should smile this season (besides LeBron James's stellar year) is because of young studs Malik Monk and Austin Reaves, who rise to the occasion every time their name is called.
But unfortunately, the Lakers only found consistent minutes for their two precious gems towards the latter part of the season. Monk, who was signed on a veteran minimum deal in the offseason, was in-and-out of the rotation to start the year.
Meanwhile, Reaves, who decided to go undrafted to play for the Purple and Gold, continues to fight for minutes, proving to Frank Vogel and the rest of the coaching staff that he deserves to be on the floor more.
Take that for data
The stats themselves will back up why these two young guns deserve to be on the floor more. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers have a net rating of +9.7 when the trio of James, Monk, and Reaves play together. Their offensive rating lies at 123 per 100 possessions, with an eFG% of 58.7% during those possessions.
When Reaves and Monk are on the floor, the Lakers get efficient shooting (thanks to Monk's ability to score), stops (thanks to Reaves' on-ball pressure), and young legs that don't mind making hustle plays and doing the dirty work.
The Lakers' coaching staff should have done their part and played these two bright spots from the beginning. Sure, the first few games of the regular season are about experimenting lineups, but that's also not an excuse to bench and lessen Monk and Reaves' minutes for veteran old legs like Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, and DeAndre Jordan — who all saw significant minutes at the start of the season.
Who knows what the Lakers' record would've been had Reaves and Monk seen more minutes at the start of the year? From the get-go, these two players (who both happen to be born in the same city called Arkansas) have produced for the team more than the veterans have. Sure, they are prone to making mistakes, but that's precisely what they need to fully grow in Vogel's system.
A lesson learned
The biggest lesson the Lakers can perhaps learn from this experience is to invest in young legs and surround James (who they built the team around) with capable players that can contribute — not washed veterans who might not even be in the NBA anymore next year.
Moving forward, the Lakers should play Reaves and Monk more, not just to help win their remaining games (which they desperately need to do) but also develop them and hope they stay in Los Angeles in the future.