DeMar DeRozan is Exactly the Kind of Steady Veteran the Lakers Need
By Liam McKeone
The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to tinker with their roster this offseason after failing to repeat as NBA champions in 2021. A squad featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously doesn't need an overhaul, but the pieces around them will always be on the table as the Lakers' front office does anything and everything they can to put the ideal supporting cast around their two stars.
L.A. does not need to change things up, necessarily. Injuries were the main culprit in their first-round playoff exit and bringing back the main contributors from this year's roster while hoping for a clean bill of health would definitely result in improvement. But after Dennis Schroder and Andre Drummond both failed to live up to expectations, it's very much worth asking if they can contribute to a championship-caliber team rather than a very good one. Especially in light of the free agency attention both will likely receive, in tandem with the Lakers' tight cap situation.
That brings us to today's latest rumor in the NBA. Reporter Evan Massey says the Lakers are interested in executing a sign-and-trade with the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan.
Lakers DeMar DeRozan
We're still a ways out from the start of free agency and thus take early reports with the appropriately-sized grain of salt. But it's an interesting move to consider.
In terms of fit, DeRozan is not at all the usual sidekick to a LeBron-led team. The best LeBron units feature a big man who can set screens and roll hard to the rim with three quality defenders who can hit three-pointers at a reasonable clip. The Lakers' 2020 championship squad featured just that as their best unit, with LeBron running point alongside Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Danny Green with AD as the only big man on the floor.
DeRozan is a good enough defender nowadays but simply does not shoot threes. He attempted 1.2 per game from beyond the arc last season and hit those shots at a 25 percent clip. For someone with such a sweet shooting stroke, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but DeRozan is who he is at this point in his career.
However! DeRozan could still provide a lot of value to the Lakers. Despite his three-point shooting flaws, he still averaged 21.6 points per game last year. He's too good of a scorer to completely abandon just because he doesn't shoot threes. That means that, even in playoff crunchtime, he can help take some of the defense's attention away and give LeBron and AD space to work.
Ultimately, DeRozan's biggest value would come in the regular season. Having another 20 PPG scorer next to the Lakers' two stars means they can afford to rest both at the same time and let DeRozan run the show without an extremely damaging dropoff in point production. Giving LeBron more rest doesn't guarantee he won't sprain his ankle by tripping over Solomon Hill again, but it will help with wear-and-tear. That's especially crucial for Davis and his history of soft-tissue injuries. DeRozan obviously can't spell Davis at power forward or center, but the presence of his offensive production means coach Frank Vogel doesn't feel like he must have either LeBron or Davis on the floor to score. That was essentially the case in 2020, when the Lakers' offensive rating was seven points worse without their two stars.
The Spurs aren't going to give DeRozan away for free, and the Lakers will need to come to terms with that. Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker will definitely be on the table. Maybe Schroder or Drummoond will end up in a possible trade, too, depending on their willingness to participate in a sign-and-trade. Los Angele's No. 22 overall pick this year may have to go as well.
It would be worth it. DeRozan can keep the offense afloat during the regular season and can score enough to justify the lack of spacing his presence would cause in the playoffs. This year's postseason especially has operated as a reminder that the midrange is not dead and a player like DeRozan can provide a lot of value even in today's NBA. It wouldn't be easy to pull off, but if the Lakers find a way, they should pull the trigger.