The offseason is less than a week old for the Los Angeles Lakers, and as each day passes, we are reminded that there is never a dull moment surrounding the team.
This summer is a big one for the Lakers, as they prepare for a post-Kobe Bryant era by looking to build off a team that finished just 17-65 this season. Perhaps the most important part of the summer will be the NBA free agency period in July. The Lakers struck out hard the last two summers, but this time around they actually have an inkling of something build on. A core group of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr. and a potential top-three pick — if they keep it — will certainly be part of their recruiting pitch.
Another resource for Los Angeles is the fact that they will have around $60 million in cap space this summer, due to the salary cap exploding from $70 million to a projected $92 million this year. This would allow them to bring in two maximum contracts.
As always, the Lakers will be linked to just about any marquee free agent in July. Will they be able to finally land one this year? The odds are slim, but apparently Shaquille O’Neal thinks they definitely have a chance to sign Kevin Durant.
On Monday, a new rumor was thrown out by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that involves another player currently on a playoff team: DeMar DeRozan.
As years past have taught us, anything that Smith says regarding the Lakers has to be taken with a Shaq-sized grain of salt. This very well could be him just throwing something out there and hoping that it sticks. DeRozan still has at least three games left in the playoff series he is in with his Toronto Raptors against the Indiana Pacers, so I doubt his mind is currently on where he will play next. Even if he is considering leaving, a deep playoff run may be enough to change his mind.
The 26-year-old has had a great year, averaging a career high 23.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting, while chipping in with four assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. His continued improvement earned him a second NBA All-Star Game appearance this year and will likely earn him a max contract this summer from someone, or at least very close to it. Of course, this is all assuming he opts out of his contract this summer, which just about everyone expects him to do.
DeRozan is certainly not a perfect fit alongside Russell and Clarkson, mainly because of his perimeter shooting, but the Lakers find themselves at a point where they desperately need established talent. If not, their rebuild will likely come along slowly and depend solely on the development of their young core. The ideal situation would be to get established talent that fits the roster’s glaring needs, but a severe upgrade in talent is also in that category.
DeRozan has been linked to the Lakers for awhile now because of his Southern California roots. He grew up in Compton and went to USC, and a return home could see his value and marketability skyrocket.
Again, take it all with a grain of salt, considering who the rumor is coming from, but a return to Los Angeles does make sense for DeRozan, especially if Toronto gets bounced out of the first round again.