The Los Angeles Lakers could be in for a drastic roster overhaul this offseason. When you include Montrezl Harrell's player option and Alfonzo McKinnie's non-guaranteed contract, the Lakers could have as many as 10 total free agents to deal with in the coming months. That's two-thirds of their roster, not including their two-way players, and while some players are certain to leave for greener pastures, others should be considered absolutely essential to the Lakers contending for a championship next season.
One such player? Reserve guard Alex Caruso. The young backup has grown into one of the very best defensive guards in basketball, and while his shooting was inconsistent, he did hit over 40 percent of his 3-point attempts this season. Most importantly, he thrived in lineups featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those two in particular are why Caruso wants to return to Los Angeles.
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"Any time you're playing with those two you have a chance to win a championship," Caruso said after his exit interview Friday. "And I know a lot of people around the league they think they do and going into the season everybody talks about what their goals are and stuff like that. But that's a realistic, attainable goal with those two guys on your team. So that's always in the back of your mind."
"I'm a free agent looming come August. Hopefully, we can return and continue our great partnership, but that's obviously for a later date."
Lakers president Rob Pelinka was clear that he wants to retain the core of this roster, and he singled out Caruso specifically as a developmental success story that he wants to retain. "Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, players you draft or bring into your 2-way system and develop, there's pride there," Pelinka said Friday. The Lakers are reportedly confident in their ability to retain Caruso because of how much he enjoys playing with James.
Doing so will likely cost eight figures. Caruso is no longer just a fan favorite. He's developed into a starting-caliber guard, and someone is going to pay him as such. With Horton-Tucker, Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews all also hitting free agency, the Lakers are going to have to make some tough financial decisions if they don't want to have the NBA's most expensive backcourt. Who exactly they'll prioritize among that group is unclear, but based on the seasons they just had, Caruso should be near the top of that list.