13. Alex Caruso
The Lakers did a poor job of scouting their own talent in 2021. Caruso and Talent Horton-Tucker were both free agents, and the purple and gold decided they could only keep one of them as an avenue to limit their luxury tax bill.
Both were playing 20-minute-per-game roles off the bench and producing similar stats. The Lakers overlooked Caruso’s superior defense and 3-point shooting to sign the younger THT to a three-year deal worth $30.7 million.
Caruso went out and signed a four-year $36.9 million deal with the Bulls, and immediately set a new career-high in minutes as his defense and playmaking blossomed in Chicago. THT lasted just one season in Los Angeles before the Lakers traded him to the Utah Jazz for Patrick Beverley.
Alex Caruso is the defense-first gritty role player that every championship team needs. Add in that he is an above-league-average shooter and can handle the ball, and he is the perfect piece for any contender.
Letting Caruso walk in 2021 never made any sense for the Lakers. During their championship season, LeBron James and Caruso had an 18.6 net rating when on the floor together, which was the best in the league among duos that played at least 400 minutes together. He was a fantastic fit in LA, but the Lakers wanted to save some money.