Free agency looms in the background as the Los Angeles Lakers make big decisions heading into the NBA trade deadline. The Lakers still have yet to sign starting point guard Dennis Schroder to a long-term extension, and he is slated to be a free agent at the end of the season. Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso join Schroder as the Lakers’ key free agents this offseason.
During a recent episode of ESPN’s The Jump, longtime NBA center Kendrick Perkins predicted that Caruso is likely going to be the odd man out in Los Angeles as the team attempts to keep Schroder and Horton-Tucker.
“As far as Talen Horton-Tucker, I think the Lakers got to do everything in their power to keep him,” Perkins explained. “I know everyone around the league loves this kid. His ceiling is very, very high. Sadly to say, but Alex Caruso, who is a fan-favorite. He is one of my favorites, he’s probably going to walk, but you got to do everything in your power if I’m the Los Angeles Lakers to lock-in Dennis Schroder and to keep Talen Horton-Tucker. He’s a young stud and his future is very, very bright.”
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Caruso Is Projected to Land the Full Mid-Level Exception in Free Agency
The Lakers are expected to have a lot of competition for Caruso. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Caruso is expected to command the full mid-level exception this offseason giving him an estimated salary of $9.5 million.
“But there still could be 10 teams with $20 million or more in cap space and another handful with more than $10 million,” Windhorst explained. “That means the Lakers could have competition to keep their role players. As an athletic guard who can defend, unrestricted free agent Caruso will have suitors. League executives think he could draw interest at the full midlevel exception range, which is $9.5 million next season. (Caruso currently earns $2.7 million.)”
Perkins on Schroder: ‘LeBron James Loves His Tenacity’
The Lakers will have the opportunity to retain Schroder, Horton-Tucker and Caruso. The question is how deep into the luxury tax the Lakers ownership is willing to go to keep all three players. According to Windhorst, the Lakers’ luxury tax bill could be as much as $100 million to keep the team together. Perkins believes the Lakers will find a way to at least keep Schroder.
“I know one thing, look, they call Dennis Schroder ‘Dennis the Menace’ for a reason,” Perkins explained. “He is a problem on the court. He is one of the few guys that pick up [players] 94-feet defensively. LeBron James loves his tenacity. He loves the edge and the spirit that he plays with and last year, I mean, he was the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year, averaging almost 20 points a game. So, he’s still in his prime. He’s going to be in his prime still for the next five years. I think the Lakers get something done and get something done early. You don’t want him to hit the free-agency market.”