The 2016 offseason is one of the most crucial draft and free agency periods for the Los Angeles Lakers in many years. With upwards of $65 million in cap space, numerous roster holes and Kobe’s retirement behind them the Lakers need to significantly upgrade their roster. With Jim Buss about to enter the third and final year of his self-imposed three-year rebuilding window, there has never been more incentive for the front office to go out and make a splash in the offseason. Armed with the second overall pick in this year’s NBA draft and a plethora of good, young talent on the roster, the Lakers have many pieces that can be used to lure prospective free agents.
One of the most coveted players on the market this offseason is Compton native DeMar DeRozan. Naturally, being from Los Angeles, the rumors of him wanting to return home to play for his hometown team have been swirling for months. Numerous reports have surfaced suggesting that DeRozan wants to play for the Lakers and return the purple and gold to the top of the western conference. However, the shooting guard’s reported interest may not be mutual as Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report has indicated that the Lakers are not particularly high on handing DeRozan a max deal. Obviously, DeRozan would be far and away the Lakers best player if he were to sign, but there are a number of reasons why signing the Compton native may not be the best move for the purple and gold.
At 26 years old and coming off the best season of his career, there isn’t a better time for DeRozan to be hitting free agency. In the regular season he averaged a career-high 23.5 points per game, to go along with 4.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game while shooting 44.6% from the field and a career-high 33.8% from three. DeRozan was exceptional on the offensive end, generating a mark of 7.5 offensive win shares—a number higher than profile players such as Paul George, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler. DeRozan is a top notch shooting guard, but he is a tier below the elite superstars that regularly record a win shares mark over 10. His inability to be effective from three, shooting just 28.3% for his career, holds him back from becoming one of the best offensive players in the game. Even though he had a career best year from downtown in 2015-2016, DeRozan is never going to be a strong shooter from distance. In the postseason, DeRozan shot a disappointing 15.4% from downtown further illustrating his inability to shoot the three effectively. This weakness combined with a sky-high usage rate of 29.8% this past season all culminates into a player that relies on inefficient mid-range jump shots. In fact, DeRozan took a whopping 46.1% of all shots between 10 feet and out to the three point line. DeRozan’s heavy reliance on these attempts would not mesh well with Luke Walton’s ball movement style that will likely feature a heavy dosage of three-point attempts and team-oriented basketball. While Walton could alter his offensive approach to better fit DeRozan’s strengths, changing his entire philosophy to fit the style of one player that is not among the best in the league may not be a smart decision. Furthermore, playing isolation basketball to placate DeRozan would slow down the pace of the game.
DeRozan is also not an elite defender. His defensive ratings are eerily reminiscent to those of James Harden—a notoriously lazy and flat out absent defender. This season DeRozan recorded a defensive rating of 108 points per possession while only contributing a low 2.4 defensive win shares. For comparison, Harden’s defensive rating was the same as DeRozan’s, but his win shares were actually higher at 2.6. The Lakers simply cannot afford to have another liability on the defensive end, especially for a player seeking a max contract. D’Angelo Russell was awful defensively in 2015-2016, and his athletic limitations likely prevent him from ever developing into a good defender. The Lakers as a team ranked dead last in the league in defensive efficiency this season and DeRozan would do nothing to improve that mark for L.A next year. Without huge improvements on the defensive end the Lakers will be nowhere near a playoff spot—a virtual requirement if Jim Buss hopes to keep his job. Because of this, DeRozan’s ineptitude on the defensive end is just another reason why the Lakers would be silly to give him a max deal.
DeRozan is not a great, but he is not an elite player or one the Lakers can expect to lead them back to the pinnacle of the NBA. His inefficiency on the offensive end, particularly from three, combined with his blatant lack of defense do not add up to a player that can revitalize a fading franchise. Considering his playing style offensively is the exact opposite of what Walton plans to introduce to the Lakers chances are DeRozan won’t play for L.A. even though he would improve the Lakers current roster. However, he would take the ball away from the Lakers’ young players that severely need touches in order to properly develop. The Lakers need a player who can stretch the opposing defense and contribute on the offensive end, not an inefficient scorer who loves to take midrange jump shots. DeRozan simply does not fit the bill on either end of the floor for the Lakers. It would be a fantastic story to see the Compton native return to his hometown and play for his childhood team, but DeRozan’s style of play does not fit the Lakers likely direction. L.A. would be smart to pass on DeRozan and search for better use of their $60+ million in cap space.