Lakers top free agency targets after missing out on Klay Thompson: Demar DeRozan leads the list

Lakers top free agency targets after missing out on Klay Thompson: Demar DeRozan leads the list

The Lakers have been relatively quiet during the first 24 hours of free agency. Could another big splash be in the making?

Los Angeles threw its hat into the Klay Thompson sweepstakes. But the Lakers were outbid by the Mavericks, who gave the ex-Warriors star a three-year, $50 million contract.

Still, there are plenty of big names available, so the Lakers could move on to another player. Here’s a list of their top options as free agency continues.

NBA FREE AGENCY: Signings tracker | Ranking the top 50 free agents | Best free agency sleepers

Ranking the Lakers’ Top Free Agents in 2024

1. LeBron James

James opted to forfeit his $51.4 million player option, making him an unrestricted free agent. He’ll likely be back, but at what cost?

James has previously indicated he would be willing to take a pay cut to bring in a player like Thompson or DeMar DeRozan, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. That would open up the $13 million mid-level exception to add a player.

If no top-tier free agent is available, expect LeBron to get a deal that pays him around $50 million annually. That would also limit the Lakers to just the $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception to add outside talent.

MORE: Possible landing spots for LeBron James in NBA free agency

2. DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan is still a top 30 player in the league. He’s one of the best isolation scorers in the game and finished second to Warriors star Stephen Curry in the 2024 Clutch Player of the Year voting.

The fit may be a bit tricky, as DeRozan doesn’t shoot many 3-pointers and Anthony Davis doesn’t shoot much either. But DeRozan is the most talented free agent left.

Would DeRozan be willing to take a massive pay cut? He was underpaid last season by $28.6 million. The Lakers could just offer him that $13 million mid-level exception, or they could try to work out a sign-and-trade with the Bulls, which would require a third team to pony up some cash. But that kind of deal would cost them some of their precious few draft assets. They have 2029 and 2031 first-round picks available for trade, along with recently selected Dalton Knecht.

3. Gordon Hayward

Hayward had a disastrous second half of the season after being acquired by the Thunder, failing to break into the rotation and looking timid when he played. Sam Presti admitted late in the season that trading him was a mistake.

That outcome was surprising, as Hayward had been playing well in Charlotte before the trade, averaging 14.5 points per game and playing solid defense. At 34 and coming off an injury-plagued career, he’s not the man he was a decade ago. But he’s a 37.0% 3-point shooter who can do a little bit of everything.

Hayward is worth a minimum based on his terrible level this season. He may be completely wiped out, but he would certainly be worth a flyer for a price close to the minimum.

MORE: Full details of Klay Thompson trade to Mavericks

4. Dario Saric

New Lakers coach JJ Redick has indicated that he wants to play more through his big men and shoot more 3-pointers. Saric does both well. He made 37.6 percent of his attempts from long range for the Warriors last season, and his 2.3 assists average is a good number for the small-ball five role he embraced later in his career.

Saric signed a one-year minimum contract last summer, making him very interesting for Los Angeles.

5. Simone Fontecchio

Fontecchio may not be a household name, but he was solid for the Jazz before being traded to the Pistons midseason. He’s a restricted free agent, so there will be some competition to keep the 28-year-old forward.

Fontecchio has proven to be a solid NBA shooter, making 37.5% of his 3’s in his two seasons in the league. He’s a smart player who can provide some offense off the bench and give the Lakers some wing depth.

The best of the rest: Miles Bridges, Gary Trent Jr., Tyus Jones, Caleb Martin, Gary Payton II, Gary Harris, Haywood Highsmith, Shake Milton