The Los Angeles Lakers have extended qualifying offers to Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams, the team announced on Wednesday, making them both restricted free agents.
Williams signed a two-way contract with the Lakers in October and if he accepts the qualifying offer next month, he’ll return on a two-way contract, according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. Caruso was also on a two-way contract last season, but he has a better chance of competing for a full-time roster spot in training camp.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report outlined some of the cap complications the Lakers could face in retaining Caruso well here:
Some detail on Caruso qualifying offer. Takes up $1.6 mil in space (but removes $900k roster fee) . If revoked, cap hold drops to $1.4 mil. If he agrees to sign at min, they can revoke, renounce and he's off their cap. Then when over, sign him at min. Rights restore in 2020— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 26, 2019
Order re: Lakers @ $32 mil near max: Agree to Caruso at min, revoke QO, renounce him/every FA. Sign $32 mil player. Sign THT (& other rookies) to 3+ yr deals. Trade Zo, BI, Hart, Hunter, Jones, Wagner, Bonga, etc to Pels and ? (Hawks?). Sign Caruso, room exception & min players— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 26, 2019
Caruso also has the backing of people within the organization, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Can confirm LA Times report that the Lakers will extend qualifying offers to Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams. LAL will be challenged with filling out the roster with young players after the AD trade. Caruso, in particular, has a lot of fans in the organization.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 26, 2019
Through 25 games with the Lakers Caruso averaged 9.2 points on 44.5 percent shooting from the field, 3.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds and a steal in 21.2 minutes per game. Towards the end of the season when the team was battling injuries, Caruso entered the starting lineup and looked like an NBA player, averaging 17.8 points, 8.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
While it’s unlikely he’ll see starters minutes again this season, especially if the Lakers are successful in their pursuit of D’Angelo Russell, he’d provide nice depth at a position of need and be able to compete for the backup point guard spot.
Meanwhile, if Williams returned, he’d likely get most of his reps in the G League with the South Bay Lakers again, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he gets more opportunities with the parent team this season. After all, they’re going to need all the cheap help they can get, especially in the event of an injury, which Anthony Davis has been known to have a few of.
The Lakers may have lost their most promising young prospects, but they still have a pair of talented young players they can bring back in Caruso and Williams this summer.