DeMar DeRozan, the all-star two-guard, will leave the Toronto Raptors and join the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer, according to popular ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith.
DeRozan and the Raptors are currently battling the Indiana Pacers in Round 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The former USC product finished the just-concluded regular season as a top-10 scorer in the league, averaging an impressive 23.5 points, 4 assists and 4.5 rebounds. DeRozan’s season-high numbers helped Toronto secure the No.2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
A native of Compton, California, DeRozan will opt out of the last year of his contract and seek a max-level deal in the offseason. “DeRozan is enjoying his last days in Toronto. He’ll be leaving for Los Angeles in a few months,” Smith told ESPN SportsCenter on Sunday while analyzing Game 1 of the Pacers-Raptors series which saw Paul George trump DeRozan and Raptors.
DeMar DeRozan: Destined to be a Laker…
Earlier this year, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that the Lakers are prepared to offer DeRozan up to $25 million per season. “A bunch of teams, including DeRozan’s hometown Lakers, are prepared to offer him a max deal starting $25 million per season, and the Raptors know they will have to spend big to keep him,” wrote Lowe.
Though Kyle Lowry is hoping that Raptors GM Masai Ujiri finds a way to keep his able backcourt partner in the North, there is strong speculation that DeRozan intends to take childhood idol Kobe Bryant’s spot in a Lakers squad desperate for star power. “The grass ain’t always greener. I want him (DeRozan) back, but it’s not my decision,” Lowry told ESPN about DeRozan’s free agency.
What happens to Clarkson?
If Lakers do land DeRozan, they might have to let go of restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson, unless they convince the former Missouri product to take up a Sixth Man role. Clarkson averaged starter minutes in his second season and enters the summer as restricted free agent. With a handful of teams, such as the Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers, expected to make a run at Clarkson, the Lakers will be forced to match any and all offer sheets to keep Clarkson in L.A.
However, if the Lakers are convinced about a backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and DeMar DeRozan, they could let Clarkson walk and maybe entertain thoughts of a sign-and-trade few months into the next season. If the front office can find a trade suitor for Nick Young, they will open up room to sign as many as three max-level players. Therefore, DeRozan could be just 1 of 3 stars heading to L.A.
Will DeMar DeRozan help the Lakers return to the playoffs?