DeMar DeRozan is getting squeezed on NBA free agent market, but Lakers still make sense

DeMar DeRozan is still performing at a near NBA All-Star level even after 15 seasons in the league. The veteran wing is coming off three fantastic seasons with the Chicago Bulls where he scored tons of points, produced so many brilliant moments in crunch-time, and rarely turned the ball over. DeRozan is now an unrestricted free agent on the brink of his 35th birthday, and with the Bulls seemingly pivoting to a long overdue rebuild, he’s in search of a new team. There’s only one problem: as almost all of the talent in free agency has already come off the board, there doesn’t seem to be an available fit for DeRozan at a salary slot commensurate with his talent.

There just doesn’t seem to be a market for DeRozan despite being the best unsigned player in the NBA right now. It’s looking like DeRozan may to accept a one-year deal and try to get more money in the summer of 2025, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“The kind of contract that (DeRozan) might want just is not going to be available,” Woj reported on SportsCenter. “It’s not left out there in the market place. It may not be as appealing to him, but it may look like a one-year deal for him somewhere. Let the market reset next year.”

Woj mentioned the Los Angeles Lakers as a team that could be interested in DeRozan, but only at the right cost. The most the Lakers could offer is the $12.8 million Mid-Level Exception … and even that might require LeBron James to take a discount. That would be a big paycut for a player who clearly outperformed his $27 million average annual salary the last three seasons, but it might be the best offer out there.

For all of his talent, DeRozan remains a difficult player to fit into existing team structures because he needs the ball to be at his best. With the ball in his hands, DeRozan is a master at getting to his spots, knocking down mid-range shots, and drawing a high-volume of free throws. At the same time, a player has be an absolute superstar to demand a very on-ball role and still power team success. DeRozan is very good, but he’s no Luka Doncic or prime James Harden at this point.

In a starring role, DeRozan is good but not quite good enough. In a supporting role, he lacks two essential things that every great role player needs: spot-up shooting and defense.

DeRozan entered the league in 2009 just before the NBA’s three-point boom. It’s remarkable that he’s remained so good in this era despite never really developing a three-point shot. For his career, DeRozan has made 29.6 percent of his threes on only 1.6 attempts per game. He was a little better behind the arc in Chicago, hitting 33.8 percent of his threes on 1.9 attempts per game across his three seasons. At the end of the day, he’s still not a willing enough or good enough shooter to make defenses pay for cheating off him in the halfcourt.

DeRozan just also isn’t very good defensively. He often needs to be hidden on the opposing team’s weakest offensive player. He struggles to get around screens, he’s late on rotations, and he just doesn’t provide much resistance.

Despite his limitations, there’s a world where DeRozan to the Lakers works well on the court for both sides. LeBron James will still get a heavy on-ball diet as he prepares to turn 40 years old, but James has also become an incredible spot-up shooter late in his career. James hit 47.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last season on 2.6 attempts per game, per NBA tracking data. When James gets tired, DeRozan can cook and LeBron can space the floor.

The Lakers need to add talent however they can in an improving Western Conference. This is a 47-win team that still only won one playoff game last year. He may not be a perfect fit, but DeRozan would still be a wise addition at this point in the offseason, especially at a discount.

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