Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of question marks for their 2021-22 roster, including free agency decisions that need to be made for their current players including Dennis Schröder, Andre Drummond, Talen Horton-Tucker, and others. One of those others is the much-adored Alex Caruso, who will enter the 2021 offseason as an unrestricted free agent following his 2-year, $5.5 million deal signed prior to the 2019-20 season.
As we saw in the 2020 offseason, there’s no guarantee in key role players returning even in the best of circumstances (a.k.a. winning a championship) as we watched Dwight Howard, Danny Green, and Rajon Rondo go to different teams. Will Alex Caruso become another casualty of the free agency period? The Lakers themselves don’t think so. Here’s the report that Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report had the other day (h/t Silver Screen & Roll):
Alex Caruso will also become an unrestricted free agent this summer. League executives polled by B/R suggested the point guard could command upwards of $12 million in average annual value, a similar number that restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker may also command for an offer sheet. Although there is a sense among Lakers officials that Caruso has relished supporting James and has an interest in staying in Los Angeles to compete alongside the four-time MVP.
During his exit interview on Friday, Caruso kept his cards close to his chest, not revealing his list of motivations for where he wants to play the next chapter of his career. However, he did indicate one “big” motivation for wanting to return to the Lakers, and that is playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis (h/t Harrison Faigen and Silver Screen & Roll).
“Anytime you play with those two, you have a realistic chance to win a championship. I know a lot of people around the league think they do,” Caruso said. “But it’s a realistic, attainable goal with those two guys on your team, so that’s always in the back of your mind.”
Kyle Kuzma is technically the longest-tenured Laker, but Alex Caruso is right there with him with his Lakers career starting during the 2017-18 season. Caruso doesn’t get the recognition that Kuzma gets of being the longest-tenured Laker, as he was technically a two-way player that season with most of his time spent with the South Bay Lakers.
Caruso’s come-up through the G-League would make a renewed partnership with the Lakers even sweeter, as would another championship during the 2021-22 season alongside LeBron and Davis. It won’t be as cheap as his two-year, $5.5 million contract, however, as some believe that the young guard could fetch the mid-level exception from a team this season ($9.5 million).