After the San Antonio Spurs failed to come out of the play-in with a playoff spot against the Memphis Grizzlies on May 19th, a lot of questions arose for the San Antonio Spurs in terms of what’s next. However, there is no bigger question for this team than what’s next for their franchise player, DeMar DeRozan, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. He will have plenty of offers for where he would like to play basketball for the coming seasons.
First, let us break down the situation he was in this past season. The Spurs are still in the awkward position that they aren’t entirely sure what they want to do. They had multiple opportunities to trade DeRozan over the offseason and at trade deadlines. But instead, they chose to keep him to the point where his current contract with the team will expire. In terms of the roster, the timeline doesn’t entirely match for DeRozan. He is the number one playmaker, averaging 6.9 assists per game which leads the team, and he’s the closer too. DeRozan finished this season averaging around 22 points, four rebounds, seven assists, and just short of a steal per game. Also, he shot, 49 percent from the field, 27 percent from beyond the arc, and 88 percent from the free-throw line. These are around the averages that he produced last season with the most significant changes coming from an increase in assists and free throw percentage.
The big issue is that DeRozan will be 32 next year and most of the players coming in next year will be in their early to mid-20s, indicating that this team may be trending towards a restructuring of their roster with the young players they already have. Dejounte Murray (25), Derrick White (26), Keldon Johnson (21), Lonnie Walker (220, Jakob Poeltl (25), and Devin Vassell (20) make up a solid group of young players but most still have a lot more room for improvement in their game, especially the younger players in the group.
The other huge question for DeRozan when considering his options are the coaching. There have been speculations for years if Gregg Popovich would be retiring at the end of the season. These rumors only increased after the Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. This is also now the second consecutive season that the Spurs have missed the playoffs. It is not entirely outlandish to assume that Popovich could retire this offseason. That could be a huge factor in whether DeRozan stays in San Antonio.
Let’s assume DeRozan has already made up his mind and he would like to leave. Where exactly are the best fits for him? The Heat, Mavericks, and Knicks are all options that fit the needs of what DeRozan provides and fits their timeline. Miami is in need of a third legitimate star after the acquisition of Victor Oladipo didn’t work out after injury. The Mavericks are also in need of a third star and another closer and playmaker to help take off the weight that Luka carries every game. The Knicks are in need of a star and wing closer as well. There may be some other surprise teams who make a run for DeRozan as well but these are three realistic options that make the most sense for now.
My best guess is that he chooses to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. Not only is this the best fit for DeRozan because he will be the number two option while surrounded by shooters and bigs who have the ability to stretch the floor, but it is also a short transition for DeRozan in terms of distance. He will also fill out the big three in Dallas that they have been searching for years since acquiring Kristaps Porzingis. Kemba Walker, Bradley Beal, and Terry Rozier were all players that Dallas was known to go after but were unable to strike a deal.
This off-season will be important for everyone, as DeRozan’s impact will shake up a lot of rankings wherever he ends up. But at 32 years old, DeRozan is still playing some of his best basketball while trying to stay ahead of a league that’s always changing. He’s become much more a facilitator and playmaker than the inside scoring guard he was with the Toronto Raptors. DeRozan will without a doubt be in line for another major paycheck, but the biggest question will be who he signs the dotted line with in July.