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

The Lakers have been relatively quiet through the first 24 hours of free agency. Could a big splash still be in the works?

Los Angeles threw its hat in the Klay Thompson sweepstakes. But the Lakers found themselves outbid by the Mavericks, who inked the ex-Warriors star to a three-year, $50 million deal.

Still, plenty of big names remain available, so the Lakers could pivot to another player. Here is a list of their best options as free agency continues.

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

Ranking best free agents for Lakers in 2024

1. LeBron James

James opted out of his $51.4 million player option, making him an unrestricted free agent. He will probably be back, but at what price?

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

If a top-tier free agent isn’t available, then expect LeBron to get a deal paying him around $50 million annually. That would also limit the Lakers to only the $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception to add outside talent.

MORE: Potential 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 as the runner-up to Warriors star Stephen Curry in the 2024 Clutch Player of the Year voting. 

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The fit might be a bit awkward given that DeRozan doesn’t shoot a lot of 3-pointers and Anthony Davis is also mostly a non-shooter. But DeRozan is the most talented free agent still out there.

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

3. Gordon Hayward 

Hayward had a disastrous second half of the season after being acquired by the Thunder, failing to crack the rotation and looking timid when he did play. Sam Presti admitted at the end of the season that it was a mistake to trade for him. 

That outcome was surprising given that Hayward was playing well in Charlotte before the trade, averaging 14.5 points per game and contributing solid defense. At age 34 and after an injury-plagued career, he’s not close to the guy he was 10 years ago. But he is a 37.0% 3-point shooter who can do a little bit of everything. 

Hayward is worth a minimum based on his awful level this season. He might be totally washed, but he would definitely be worth a flier at a price near the minimum.

MORE: Full details of Klay Thompson trade to Mavericks

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4. Dario Saric

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

Saric signed on a one-year minimum last summer, so he is very gettable for Los Angeles. 

5. Simone Fontecchio

Fontecchio may not be a well-known player, but he was solid for the Jazz before being traded to the Pistons mid-season. He’s a restricted free agent, so there will be some competition to retain the 28-year-old forward. 

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

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

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