The Los Angeles Lakers face a challenging offseason with many of their key players set to hit free agency. With no cap space, the Lakers are going to need to get creative to end up with an improved roster heading into next season. Their two biggest opportunities hinge on a potential sign-and-trade with another team for Dennis Schroder or pulling off a similar deal for an opposing team’s free agent.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who spent five years as the Nets assistant general manager, believes the Lakers could target Spurs free-agent guard DeMar DeRozan. Unless DeRozan is willing to play for the mid-level exception (unlikely), the Lakers would need the guard to force his way to Los Angeles via a sign-and-trade. As a frame of reference, DeRozan had a $27.7 million salary during the 2020-21 season as part of a five-year, $139 million contract.
“For example, the Lakers could trade Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, an unprotected first-round pick in 2027 and the right to swap firsts to San Antonio for a signed-and-traded DeMar DeRozan,” Marks explained.
While Marks threw out the hypothetical trade scenario, the former NBA executive admitted such a deal is “highly unlikely.” The four-time All-Star averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 61 starts this season. Lakers fans will likely be quick to point out that DeRozan shot just 25.7% from behind the 3-point line.
“Although such a trade works on paper, it is highly unlikely the Lakers could make that move and remain below the $142 million threshold while still retaining Schroder, Caruso, Horton-Tucker and perhaps Drummond,” Marks continued.
DeRozan on Lakers Trade Rumors in 2020: ‘Damn, My Hometown Team Want Me?’
One of the Lakers’ biggest struggles this season was their long-range shooting, and adding DeRozan to the roster could make this weakness even more glaring. What it would solve is the lack of a legitimate third star to ease the burden on LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers’ season essentially crumbled when James and Davis both went down with injuries. DeRozan would at least give the Lakers some insurance in case they battle injuries again next season. The guard grew up in Compton, California, watching all the Lakers games. During a November interview on the All the Smoke podcast, DeRozan was asked about the Lakers trade rumors that were swirling at the time, and the Spurs star indicated he would not mind a Southern California reunion.
“For me it’s just I’ve learned being in the league so long that you always want to be wanted,” DeRozan said, via NBC Sports. “So when you see things about teams wanting you, you can’t feel a certain type of way. You’d better feel good about it because there’s some m*********** that’s not wanted. You don’t want to be that person. So to be wanted by a championship team that just came off a championship, to see that, how could you not feel some type of way? Especially me, being from LA, it’s like, ‘Damn, my hometown team want me? They just came off a championship and they want me?’ It’s definitely crazy to be able to see that.”
The Lakers Need Some ‘Creativity’ to Overcome the Many Hurdles to Pull Off a Sign-and-Trade
There are admittedly several hurdles the Lakers would need to clear to make a move like this happen, namely, fighting against opposing teams who can make a more lucrative offer, as well as being able to pull off a complicated sign-and-trade. ESPN’s Marks detailed the salary cap complications the Lakers would be dealing with in a potential trade.
“The past two offseasons have shown that there are other avenues to acquire a player beyond cap space and retaining your own players,” Marks explained. “Since 2019, there have been 16 players who have changed teams on a sign-and-trade deal, including Christian Wood to Houston last offseason. Although it is a valuable resource, teams acquiring a player this offseason in a sign-and-trade would trigger the $142 million hard cap, which means the Lakers would need some creativity — and a giant calculator — to make such a move.”
If Lakers fans are searching for a silver lining, look no further than the Nets acquiring James Harden without any cap space. In today’s NBA, a player can dictate his destination far more successfully than in past years, even to a team like the Lakers with little cap flexibility. If DeRozan eyes a potential homecoming, the Lakers would be wise to keep their options open if the price is right.