One of the most mind-boggling decisions that the Los Angeles Lakers have made in recent years was letting Alex Caruso walk in free agency. Caruso signed a four-year, $36.98 million contract with the Chicago Bulls and later admitted that he was willing to take less money than that to stay in Los Angeles.
The Lakers had the ability to match that contract as well as the team had Bird Rights on Caruso. However, because of the luxury tax payments that would have followed, the multi-billion dollar franchise decided to let Caruso walk. Instead, the team re-signed Talen Horton-Tucker to a deal that paid him more than Caruso. The Lakers made the wrong choice.
While they never admitted it publicly, this is something that the Lakers have reportedly regretted. An NBA executive told Sean Deveney of Heavy that the rumor around the league was that the Lakers regretted the trade “almost immediately after hit happened.”
That is not the only thing that the executive told Deveney. Los Angeles not only regrets the move, but is potentially looking to make right on the mistake. “The Lakers are worried they don’t have enough of an edge,” the executive told Deveney. “He could be someone who helps fix that.”
A Caruso trade won’t happen anytime soon for the Lakers as most of the team’s tradeable contracts cannot be moved until December 15 at the earliest. The Chicago Bulls also need more time to realize that they are not a true playoff contender. That will make the team more likely to sell at the deadline.
Caruso is exactly the kind of player that the Lakers should look to add. While he has not played as well as he did in Los Angeles, he is still a highly productive player who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire sport.
The guard depth is a bit lacking behind Austin Reaves with the point guard play being less than ideal thus far this season. Caruso would help fix that problem and would give the Lakers far more impactful minutes than Cam Reddish is currently giving the team.
Caruso also has excellent rapport with LeBron James and could give the Lakers a scary closing lineup. Back in the Lakers’ title-winning year, the two-man lineup of Caruso and LeBron had the best net rating of any two-man lineup in the league. That is how special that pairing was.
Caruso’s contract is at a manageable price and there are several ways in which the purple and gold can bring him back. If there was ever a no-brainer move for the Lakers, it would be this one.