Lakers Rumors: Alex Caruso Expected to Draw Interest in Free Agency at MLE Range

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4) brings the ball up court in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Utah JazzWednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Alex Caruso is set to hit free agency in the offseason, and the Los Angeles Lakers could have some significant competition for his services.

"League executives think he could draw interest at the full midlevel exception range, which is $9.5 million next season," Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported.

Caruso has been a valuable player for the Lakers the past four seasons, re-signing with the team in 2019 on a two-year, $5.5 million deal. He appeared in each of the team's 21 postseason games last year on the run to the NBA title.

So far in 2020-21, the point guard is averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 assists in 19.9 minutes per game off the bench.

Caruso has also hit 38.8 percent of three-point attempts this season while his true value comes on the other end of the court with strong on-ball defense and 1.1 steals per game in limited playing time. 

The Lakers are 6.5 points better per 100 possessions with Caruso on the court, second best on the team among regular rotation players behind only LeBron James, via Basketball Reference.

The former undrafted free agent also showed he can put up better numbers when given the opportunity, averaging 9.2 points and 3.1 assists in 2018-19 for a team that missed out on the playoffs. Caruso has shown he can be a key role player for a contender or a productive member of an average team, both scenarios worthy of long looks in free agency.

It could put the 27-year-old out of the Lakers' price range as they try to navigate the luxury tax ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Los Angeles owes more than $75 million to just LeBron James and Anthony Davis plus another $26 million between Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With Dennis Schroder, Talen Horton-Tucker and others also set to hit free agency, the Lakers could be forced to make tough choices this offseason.