For one, the team needed a more traditional point guard, and Rose fit the bill. He would have given the Lakers some playmaking and scoring punch, as well as a secondary ballhandler to ease the burden of LeBron James in that area far more effectively than anyone else on the roster has to this point.
Rose also isn’t making so much this year that it would be impossible to construct a trade for him (Rose’s contract is worth just north of $7 million this year, with a nearly $8 million team option for next season).
All those reasons are why it made sense when there were rumors that the Lakers had reached out to the Pistons about trading for Rose. Now, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, we know what they offered:
Meanwhile, sources say the Lakers offered a package involving Alex Caruso and draft compensation for Derrick Rose, which was rejected as the Pistons had set a high value on the former NBA MVP. The Lakers stood pat at the deadline — and VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka instead upgraded the roster post-deadline. The Lakers remain the No. 1 seed in the West at 47-13.
Now, first we have to note that we’re now past the trade deadline, so Caruso is not under imminent threat to be dealt anymore, at least not until the summer. It should also be noted that Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Rose didn’t want to be traded, which was surely part of the Pistons’ calculus here.
Why this is worth acknowledging, then, is that it gives us a better sense of how much the Lakers value Caruso. They like him enough that they didn’t deal him despite reports that multiple teams called them to see if they could pry him away, but not so much that they wouldn’t be willing to ship him out if they felt it gave them an upgrade in their chances to win a title this year.
And as much as Caruso has become a fan favorite, that stance pretty much makes sense, logically. Caruso is a valuable player for this team, but dealing for Rose potentially would have solved the Lakers’ biggest on-court issue, so they had to at least check in on the feasibility of doing so.
This also is worth noting heading into the summer. Whether the Lakers win a title or not, they’ll surely be looking to upgrade their roster to show likely unrestricted free agent Anthony Davis how committed they are to winning. Caruso’s $2.8 million expiring deal is potentially valuable in that context, as he’s a good player that can be combined with other assets to sweeten a trade for a difference maker.
None of this is to say the Lakers should trade Caruso, though. If the right deal comes along for a clear upgrade of their title chances, of course they have to look at it, but a good player on a cheap deal is also valuable for a contender with two superstars taking up most of its payroll. Those teams need players to outperform their contracts, and Caruso fits the bill. Whether or not the Lakers value that quality more than what he could fetch them in a trade, though, remains to be seen.