It sounds like DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors is the next star to receive serious attention from the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
DeRozan, 26, figures to do the obvious thing this offseason and opt out of his contract, hitting the open market as one of the biggest names available. Where there’s a bidding war, the rebuilding Lakers figure to get involved, of course. In a writeup by ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, he mentioned the Lakers as a team understood to have a max deal up their sleeves for the USC product:
That starts with DeRozan, a lock to decline his option and hit free agency this summer. A bunch of teams, including DeRozan’s hometown Lakers, are prepared to offer him a max deal starting at $25 million per season, and the Raptors know they will have to spend big to keep him.
Go figure, right? DeRozan’s young and boasts a 22.9/4.1/4.4 slash line on 45 percent shooting from the floor, the points and assists numbers currently career highs. His range from deep is the worst hole in his game (29 percent from beyond the arc so far this year), but otherwise DeRozan looks like a solid foundation piece for a rebuilding team looking to turn the proverbial corner.
A source told Brian Lewis of the New York Post last week that DeRozan intends to opt out of his contract. It’s the smart move from a money standpoint, though opting out doesn’t mean he wants to leave his team. In fact, DeRozan has made it pretty clear as of late he doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
“That’s one you thing you can never question: my loyalty to the city,” DeRozan told Joey Vendetta on the Jeff Blair Show, according to Jeff Simmons of SportsNet.ca. “How much I really love and appreciate the team and the organization. I think all the fans understand that. A lot of times they don’t understand how contracts or things like that. But I’ve always stressed that this is where I want to be my whole career.”
None of the above will stop the Lakers.
Why would it? As Lowe mentions, the Lakers are DeRozan’s hometown team. It’s easy now for anyone locked into a contract to say they won’t move around once free, but NBA fans know quite well what the open market can do to change a player’s mind.
The Lakers don’t just have the city to tout, either. The front office can boast a Kobe Bryant-less team with strong foundation blocks such as Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, not to mention what could be another high-profile rookie and an assured spot in the starting lineup for a player with DeRozan’s talents.
It’s doubtful Los Angeles will be alone in the pursuit, but has more cards than most to offer. Toronto sounds like it will open up the checkbook to keep DeRozan around, but there’s where it gets interesting—the team already has plenty of cash locked up in guards and players who can step in if he leaves thanks to the presence of Terrence Ross and DeMarre Carroll.
At what point does $25 million a year, regardless of how badly DeRozan wants to stick around, become too much for the Raptors?
It sounds like the Lakers want to find out.