DeMar DeRozan arrived in San Antonio as the centerpiece of a deal that sent franchise star Kawhi Leonard packing after an unceremonious exit from the organization. DeRozan, a four-time All-Star as a member of the Toronto Raptors, has seemingly embraced his role with his new franchise despite the blindsided nature of his trade out of Canada. Whether he plans on accepting his player option for $27.7 million next season or not, the Spurs are staring down an early-season barrel of how to handle DeRozan and the short-term future of their franchise.
Simply put: The Spurs have been getting walloped defensively when DeRozan is on the floor through the first games of 2019-20. Across the 439 minutes that DeRozan has seen thus far, he possesses an on-court defensive rating of 114.6, which is the second-worst mark of any player on the roster who has received significant playing time for San Antonio. Built traditionally on their stingy defensive execution, the Spurs have yielded 114.5 points per game across their first 13 games.
Offensively, DeRozan has been his usual solid self. Entering Monday’s game against Dallas, he has made exactly half of his shots from the field this season en route to averaging 19.8 points per game. His 196 shots from inside the 3-point line lead the league and therein lies another rub — DeRozan has nearly entirely eschewed the 3-point shot. Never known as a particularly lethal marksman from deep (28.2 percent of his triples have been made throughout his career), he attempted just 45 triples in 77 games last season. Now? He has taken four in his first 13 games.
With that knowledge, it’s not particularly surprising that the Spurs — with 25.1 attempts per game — are shooting the fewest 3s in the league to this point. Of course, shooting treys and winning games is not always a linear trajectory, but as the league increases its tempo and pace, the Spurs’ attempts at going counterculture may be serving detrimental means, as evidenced by their 5-8 start to the season.
Even with the rapid collapse of the Golden State Warriors, making the playoffs in the Western Conference is expected to be a six-month war of attrition. It’s still entirely feasible that DeRozan and fellow veteran LaMarcus Aldridge can blend in well enough with the team’s younger assets to create a playoff squad in 2018-19, but moving DeRozan and reaping new rewards would appear to be a path worth exploring.
The quickest fix for a team attempting to make the postseason for a 23rd consecutive season is to flip assets for other assets. It’s exactly what the organization did when Leonard’s situation became untenable due to extenuating circumstances between player and front office.
But now, dealing DeRozan would be an attempt at spinning the franchise forward with an eye to development of younger players such as Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV, in addition to any other pieces that are brought aboard in such a deal. The Orlando Magic are reportedly interested in trading for DeRozan, and there likely would be other suitors.
The Spurs have to at least consider a big move.