The 2021 NBA season didn’t exactly finish how the Los Angeles Lakers envisioned. Despite entering the year as the favorites to repeat as NBA champions, the Lakers couldn’t even make it out of the first round of the playoffs. With LeBron James set to turn 37 later this year, LA’s title window seems to be closing fast.
The Lakers will need to make some drastic changes this offseason if they expect to get back to the NBA Finals in 2022, and they already seem to have their eyes on a star to pair with James and Anthony Davis. LA’s newest trade target is reportedly DeMar DeRozan, but the team would need its hated rival, the San Antonio Spurs, to offer an olive branch to make it happen.
DeMar DeRozan is reportedly the Lakers’ newest fantasy
After losing in six games to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Lakers knew their current roster wasn’t going to cut it going forward. Yes, Davis was injured for much of the series, and James was exhausted from the long season, but two players aren’t enough to carry a team to a championship anyway.
LA is going to have to upgrade its roster by adding another star if it wants to get the most out of what’s left of LeBron’s prime. And the franchise might already have one in mind.
On Tuesday, Evan Massey of NBA Analysis Network reported that the Lakers have interest in pursuing four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan this offseason. The longtime Toronto Raptor, who’s been with the Spurs for the last three seasons, is in the final year of his contract. However, it won’t be that simple for the Lakers to just sign him off the street this summer.
Lakers would need the Spurs to offer an olive branch to make it work
If the Lakers are, in fact, interested in adding DeRozan this offseason, they’ll need their longtime Western Conference rivals to help them out. You see, LA doesn’t have enough cap space to sign a player of DeRozan’s caliber in free agency this summer.
Instead, the Lakers would have to execute a sign-and-trade for the talented scorer, but it might be tough 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, so team CEO R.C Buford and general manager Brian Wright could pull the same stunt with DeRozan.
What would a sign-and-trade for DeRozan look like?
It’s clear the Lakers don’t have the cap space to offer DeRozan a fair contract in free agency. So, what would a possible sign-and-trade look like that benefits both teams?
The starting bargaining chip would most likely have to be Kyle Kuzma and his $13 million cap number in 2022. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Talen Horton-Tucker, and the 22nd pick in the upcoming NBA draft could round out some sort of an even deal. With the Spurs clearly out of title contention as their roster currently stands, they might not be opposed to offloading DeRozan for younger talent.
But with the hate-filled history between the two franchises, it’s hard to believe a deal comes to fruition this summer.