Lakers News: Rob Pelinka's Plans for Final Roster Spots, Update on Alex Caruso

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2021

Lakers News: Rob Pelinka's Plans for Final Roster Spots, Update on Alex Caruso

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    The Los Angeles Lakers are heavy on excitement and intrigue with the 2021-22 NBA season rapidly approaching.

    With Russell Westbrook brought in to build the latest Big Three with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, L.A.'s ceiling is through the roof. It isn't entirely clear how all of the pieces will fit, but if the Lakers ever strike that balance, they could easily be the team to beat in the Western Conference—if not the Association at large.

    The potential is enough to keep this club in the news, but once you add in elements like the Hollywood backdrop and the presence of mega-stars, then it's no small wonder this club can draw so much media traffic on its own.

    Speaking of which, there are a few recent developments around this team worth discussing.

L.A. Wants 14th Roster Spot Filled Before Training Camp

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    The Lakers have two open roster spots right now. General manager Rob Pelinka would like to cut that number in half ahead of next week's training camp.

    The executive held a press conference on Thursday and said the franchise is down to its "final evaluations" with regard to the 14th roster spot. The Lakers would like to finish those evaluations and make a decision before camps opening on Tuesday.

    L.A. has worked out a number of players in recent weeks who could all be candidates. Darren Collison, Kenneth Faried and Isaiah Thomas are among the more notable invites.

    The Lakers could also promote one of their younger players on two-way or Exhibit 10 contracts to a non-guaranteed deal. That would be the more cost-effective option, though there would be less certainty with unproven players.

Lakers Plan to Keep 15th Spot Open

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    While the Lakers could add two players to their roster, they don't sound eager to take that route. Not yet, anyway.

    "Most likely, [the 15th roster spot] will be held with the tax implications and holding that for potentially the buyout deadline," Pelinka told reporters.

    The Lakers are already into the luxury tax, so any further investment they make must have the on-court significance to justify the cost. You can understand why they wouldn't see that happening with the 15th player on the roster.

    Plus, like Pelinka said, this allows the Lakers to stay flexible during the season. The buyout market is almost always worth exploring for contenders. Last season, it delivered Andre Drummond. The year prior, it yielded Markieff Morris. Interesting options could be available again, and it could also give the Lakers some wiggle room in potential trades.

Pelinka Says Lakers 'Wanted To Keep' Alex Caruso

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    Were you bummed to see fan-favorite Alex Caruso head elsewhere in free agency? Pelinka said the Lakers were, too.

    "We made an aggressive attempt to re-sign Alex Caruso," Pelinka told reporters. " ... We pursued him and wanted to keep him."

    L.A.'s level of aggressiveness might be up for debate. After Caruso's four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls was confirmed, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported the Lakers had a chance to counter the Bulls' offer and declined. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne added Caruso would have stayed in L.A. for less money than he got in Chicago, but the Lakers wouldn't go beyond a $7 million annual salary for tax concerns.

    That was unlikely to ever be enough for Caruso, so Pelinka's hands were effectively tied.