The Lakers appear poised to become one of the teams to make a play for DeMar DeRozan in free agency this summer, given their long-held interest in the native of nearby Compton, California, writes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. Speculation that DeRozan would seek to play close to home has existed for quite some time, and it’s not surprising that the Lakers, who’ve struggled to field competitive rosters the past few years, would want to add a 26-year-old who’s currently the NBA’s 11th-leading scorer at 22.6 points per game. A source close to DeRozan who spoke recently with Brian Lewis of the New York Post confirmed the widely held assumption that the shooting guard will turn down his player option of slightly more than $10MM for next season, and the Nets are also expected to pursue him in free agency this summer.
Still, despite DeRozan’s ties to Southern California, he’s also fond of Toronto and has shown no hesitation to express his affection for the city and the Raptors organization. The source who spoke to Lewis cited DeRozan’s loyalty to the Raptors, and with next month’s All-Star Game set for Toronto, DeRozan again paid homage Thursday to the only NBA city he’s ever represented, as Wolstat points out.
“I think I’m just excited for being in Toronto and people really getting a chance to see what Toronto is like,” DeRozan said. “The city, the culture, really, to put us on the main stage and let this city get the credit that it deserves that I feel like it never got.”
The Raptors have close to $70MM in guaranteed salary committed for next season against a projected $89MM cap, and they have fellow wing players DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross signed to long-term deals, but they hold DeRozan’s Bird rights and can exceed the cap to re-sign him. DeRozan won’t necessarily be the No. 1 priority for the Lakers, with the team no doubt eager to make a pitch to Kevin Durant, this summer’s top free agent prize. DeRozan is No. 8 in the latest edition of the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings.
The rising salary cap and the impending retirement of Kobe Bryant, which will allow the Lakers to remove his massive $26.25MM cap hold from the books next summer, will help give them no shortage of flexibility to sign multiple marquee free agents in the offseason. They have only about $23MM in guaranteed salary, not counting a $3.135MM player option for Brandon Bass and cap holds much smaller than Bryant’s. DeRozan will be eligible for a max deal with a salary of a projected $24.9MM for next season.