The Los Angeles Lakers shifted their offseason plans into high gear after acquiring Russell Westbrook. The Lakers quickly moved its focus toward filling out the rest of the roster around its star talent through free agency. One of those possible additions includes a former All-Star.
Lakers acquire Russell Westbrook
After weeks of speculation, the Lakers committed to a potential franchise-changing big-splash trade.
During the 2021 NBA draft, Los Angeles acquired Westbrook along with a 2024 second-round pick and a 2028 second-round pick in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft.
Westbrook’s arrival immediately creates a Big 3 alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It’s a golden opportunity for the former league MVP to compete for an NBA title while playing close to home.
The massive move also shifts the offseason game plan significantly for the Lakers. It forces the front office to operate with limited salary cap-space to fill out the rest of the roster. Los Angeles currently has only four players under contract with Westbrook, James, Davis, and Marc Gasol.
The team is hopeful the allure of competing for an NBA title will push several free-agent veteran players to take pay cuts. It may include another former All-Star talent eyeing a chance to play in his hometown.
Lakers may acquire another hometown star after Russell Westbrook trade
The trade for Westbrook has suddenly transformed the Lakers into the marquee destination for veteran free agents.
Before the blockbuster trade, DeMar DeRozan remained heavily linked to Los Angeles as a potential free-agent possibility. The four-time All-Star further sparked the rumors after his recent comments during an episode of the Club Shay Shay podcast that he holds interest in joining the Lakers.
Even after Westbrook’s arrival, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report is reporting DeRozan still holds interest in signing with Los Angeles.
“With [Russell] Westbrook now headed to Los Angeles, multiple league personnel contacted by B/R expect there to be significant interest from several veterans, including DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony, to forgo higher salary opportunities elsewhere and join the Lakers in pursuit of a championship,” Fischer wrote.
It’s a move that would require DeRozan to take a massive pay cut as the most the Lakers can offer is a $5.9 million mid-level exception salary for next season. It would be a steep drop from the $27.7 million he made last season with the San Antonio Spurs.
The 31-year-old would provide the Lakers another steady backcourt behind his scoring and playmaking as a passer. He wouldn’t improve the team’s 3-point shooting, but his presence adds a proven scorer.
DeRozan certainly holds the appeal of playing for his hometown team while competing for an NBA title. However, other organizations such as the Dallas Mavericks will present him with a huge offer. It’s a matter of competing for an NBA title outweighing the opportunity to receive a lucrative contract elsewhere.
Front office will explore its options in free agency
As much as the Lakers would entertain adding DeRozan, the team likely isn’t holding its breath at the possibility.
The four-time All-Star is one of several free-agent targets that can help fill out the rest of the roster. Since the Westbrook trade, rumors suggest a few veteran free agents may be willing to take sizable pay cuts to join Los Angeles.
It’s quickly linked the franchise to Dwight Howard, Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Avery Bradley. The list of options will likely extend much further than those initial names.
As free agency inches closer, expect the Lakers to be among the most active teams.