The Los Angeles Lakers already made their big splash of the 2021 offseason, acquiring the dynamic playmaker they had been seeking in the form of Russell Westbrook. Now, their focus shifts to retaining and signing free agents, the biggest of which is combo guard Alex Caruso.
Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker are their two biggest free agents that they hope to retain, and both could come with price tags ranging around $10 million in free agency. Given the lack of ability to replace either player should they leave, it makes sense to pay whatever it takes to keep them both, assuming that number is somewhat reasonable.
Caruso is already reportedly receiving interest from opposing teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and Indiana Pacers. However, there’s reason to believe that those rumored teams could be out of the backup point guard market, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
I had heard Caruso was a target of the Pacers, Hawks and Cavs – but the Pacers, I think, keep TJ (TBD) – and the Hawks just got Wright and the Cavs Rubio – so maybe the market for AC has shifted. If I’m Lakers, I don’t think twice about keeping him
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 31, 2021
All three had been previously linked to Caruso in separate rumors. This means that it’s certainly possible they all still have interest. However, all three have other point guard options they’ve either been linked to or have already acquired.
Both the Cavaliers and the Hawks made draft-day deals to acquire backup point guards. And while the Pacers remain a possibility, they essentially are deciding between keeping T.J. McConnell or signing Caruso. It’s certainly easier for them to hold on to what they have.
Caruso absolutely should be in a Lakers uniform next season. His ability to fit seamlessly alongside superstars, play high-quality defense on opposing point guards, and occasionally hit the three-ball will all be necessary skills on the 2021-22 Lakers team.
On August 2, when free agency officially begins, we’ll start to see more smoke surrounding what Caruso’s market actually looks like.
DeMar DeRozan still a possibility for Lakers
While Caruso is being linked to other teams, opposing free agents — especially veterans — are beginning to be linked to the Lakers. Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony have already been connected to L.A. over multiple rumors, suggesting real interest. However, even DeMar DeRozan has gotten his name back in the mix.
If he were to join L.A., he’d need to do so on the taxpayer mid-level exception — worth about $5.9 million — making it a huge financial sacrifice.