The Lakers are officially in the final phase of their rebuild. They have traded their draft picks, their young players, and their two most recent first-round picks. In their place, they have brought in three veteran free agents, and they’ve also added a new head coach and a new GM. In order to get back to contention, they will need to build a team that can contend in the near future, and they will need to do it without alienating their fans.

It’s time for the Lakers to take the next step in their ambitious plan to win a championship. By building a new arena and signing the best free agents in the NBA, they’ve already taken a big step towards that goal. But the Lakers can’t rest easy: they still face the threat of a hated enemy from their past stealing the spotlight.

The 2021 NBA season didn’t exactly end the way the Los Angeles Lakers envisioned it. Although the Lakers were the favorites to win the NBA title this year, they didn’t even make it past the first round of the playoffs. With LeBron James turning 37 this year, L.A.’s title window appears to be closing fast.

The Lakers need to make some drastic changes this season if they want to return to the NBA Finals in 2022, and it looks like they’ve already got their eye on a star to partner with James and Anthony Davis. L.A.’s new target would be DeMar DeRozan, but to do that, the team will have to offer an olive branch to their hated rival, the San Antonio Spurs.

DeMar DeRozan would be the Lakers’ newfantasy.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs | Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

After six defeats against the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Lakers realized that their current lineup was incapable of going forward. Yes, Davis was injured for most of the series and James was worn out by a long season, but two players still aren’t enough to lead a team to a championship.

Los Angeles will need to add another star to their team if they want to make the most of what’s left of LeBron’s heyday. And the franchise may already have one in mind.

Evan Massey of the NBA Analysis Network reported Tuesday that the Lakers are interested in acquiring four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan this season. The former Toronto Raptors player, who played the last three seasons for the Spurs, is in the final year of his contract. However, it won’t be so easy for the Lakers to contract him this summer.

Lakers need to offer Spurs an olive branch to make things work

#Lakers Really interested in getting DeMar DeRozan in free agency this season, source said @HoopAnalysisNet. A contract with him would be necessary and feasible for Los Angeles.

– Evan Massey (@massey_evan) July 6, 2021

If the Lakers are truly interested in taking over DeRozan this season, they will need help from their longtime Western Conference rivals. That’s because Los Angeles doesn’t have enough room to contract a player of DeRozan’s caliber this summer.

Instead, the Lakers will have to make a deal to contract and trade a talented scorer, but it won’t be easy to convince the Spurs to throw them a bone.

San Antonio reportedly refused to negotiate with the Lakers when Kawhi Leonard was on the market a few years ago. Thus, general manager R.C. Buford and general manager Brian Wright could make the same move with DeRozan.

What would a swap with DeRozan look like?

I’d trade Kyle Kuzma for Jay Cole. … I would go for DeMar DeRozan.

The Lakers need someone who won’t feed LeBron all the time. DeRozan can create for others, get hit himself, defend and be tough. I love it. pic.twitter.com/sun8v7K8lX

– shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) July 6, 2021

Clearly, the Lakers don’t have the room to offer DeRozan a fair contract in Free Agency. So what would a possible sign-and-trade option look like that would benefit both teams?

Trump’s first will likely be Kyle Kuzma and his cap hit of $13 million in 2022. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, Talen Horton-Tucker and 22nd. A pick in the upcoming NBA draft could result in a balanced deal. Since Spurs are clearly not a title contender with their current lineup, they might not mind trading DeRozan for a young talent.

But given the hateful history between the two franchises, it’s hard to believe a deal will be reached this summer.

COMPARED TO: Tyrone Liu admitted Allen Iverson’s changeup was the best thing that ever happened to him: Without Iverson, there would probably be no.

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