San Antonio Spurs 2018-2019 Performance Review: DeMar DeRozan

By Damien Bartonek
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 23: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on January 23, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Spurs 122-120. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 23: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on January 23, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Spurs 122-120. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – APRIL 18: DeMar DeRozan #10 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs look on against the Denver Nuggets during Game Three of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – APRIL 18: DeMar DeRozan #10 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs look on against the Denver Nuggets during Game Three of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Fans were eager to see how DeMar DeRozan would perform in his first year with the San Antonio Spurs. He provided a mixed bag of results in year one.

The San Antonio Spurs made their first blockbuster trade in a long time when they sent Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto and got DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first round pick in return.

Before we get into this meal, like a word of prayer, I must let you know what’s really important here: this performance review isn’t going to be based on a comparison to Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, this is going to be based on DeMar DeRozan.

This is not the comparing and contrasting of him & KL2, but a look at DeMar’s season outside of the context of that trade.

Comp10. In San Antonio.

While many media members had San Antonio missing the playoffs entering the year, DeMar made his mark on this season.

The morning that trade went down in mid-July was a game-changer, one that most thought ended the Spurs’ run as contenders. The most underrated and under-appreciated aspect of this move was the most obvious of them all: pairing the genius that is Gregg Popovich with a high-IQ player in DeMar DeRozan, which went together like macaroni and cheese.

While that mac and cheese is sometimes burnt or undercooked, it is a reliable combination that delivers more than it doesn’t.

Let’s take a month-by-month look at DeMar’s complicated first season in a Spurs uniform.

Next: October-November

DENVER, COLORADO – APRIL 13: Demar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter during game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO – APRIL 13: Demar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter during game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

October-November:

DeMar’s play during the first two months of the season was stellar from a statistical standpoint with 24.3 points per game, 6 assists, and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 52% from the floor.

As everybody knows though, the team was struggling while DeRozan was putting up those numbers.

A combination of injuries, a ton of new players not entirely understanding of the system on both ends and bad rotations led to the 10-12 start your San Antonio Spurs faced early on.

That record wasn’t DeMar’s fault by any stretch of the imagination. In this new system, he showed his great passing ability.

Proving that he is more than your typical mid-range scorer, DeMar flashed more as a “do-it-all” kind of player. Averaging his career high in assists and rebounds, DeRozan had a better total impact on the game than he did in Toronto.

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His playmaking ability gave the team hope as it just started the season, due to the fact that he created a variety of open looks for this team that would eventually fall in.

DeRozan did still struggle on the defensive end of the floor. The Spurs normally excel at team defense, but early on nobody could defend.

Rotations were off, including DeMar’s, at times getting beat on backdoor cuts and simple offensive that should be easy to defend. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort, just a lack of attention to the little details that the Spurs pound the whiteboard about.

Next: December-January

DENVER, CO – APRIL 13: DeMar DeRozan (10) of the San Antonio Spurs takes a breather against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 101-95 win on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The Denver Nuggets hosted the San Antonio Spurs during game one of the teams’ first round NBA playoffs series at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – APRIL 13: DeMar DeRozan (10) of the San Antonio Spurs takes a breather against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 101-95 win on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The Denver Nuggets hosted the San Antonio Spurs during game one of the teams’ first round NBA playoffs series at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

December-January:

The month of December saw a Spurs team finally get it together, with some much needed input from DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs were 21-9 during December-January shooting the lights out from three, and they were finally beginning to click on all cylinders.

DeMar’s performance night in and night out was sensational in terms of how effective he was starting to become offensively. He took on the role of not only finding and creating shots for others, but his game took off in terms of how effective he was in transition and he was playing much better defense. December was where DeRozan hit his peak.

He slowed down a bit in January, even opting to take some rest. DeMar had a history of hitting a winter wall in Toronto, and that carried over to San Antonio.

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His legs were getting stiff, his body was getting sore, and he really gained some battle scars throughout the season.

DeMar did emerge from the midseason pain to have a fabulous revenge game against Toronto, recording his first career triple-double. After that, you saw him begin to taper off a bit.

He shouldered a ton of this team, especially on the offensive end during the early part of the season. It began to wear on him, and while the Spurs were getting wins, he wasn’t the same player.

After struggling to find his shot, he shot in the mid-30’s and 20’s percentage-wise in 7 of 11 games from 12/31-1/31.

Some stuff doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but he was critical for a lot of the team’s success during that portion of the season even if the shots weren’t falling. January was a struggle, one I believe was necessary.

Next: February-April

SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with teammate DeMar DeRozan #10 on the bench during an NBA game against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with teammate DeMar DeRozan #10 on the bench during an NBA game against the Houston Rockets (Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images) /

February:

It was a crappy month for the entire team.

DeMar had three nights scoring under 20 points as nobody seemed to do anything right during the worst Rodeo Road Trip In Spurs history.

While there was some bright spots at times, most importantly DeMar continuing to create shots for others, the Spurs struggled on both ends of the floor.

Attention to detail was lacking, the effort wasn’t very good, and frustration was high. I would’ve been much more hard on DeMar as one of the leaders during this tough stretch, but I believe even Coach Pop wasn’t on his A-game for that entire month.

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March-April:

These last two months were huge for the Spurs because they entered the spring on the outside looking in to the Western Conference playoff picture.

After that horrendous Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs bounced right back, and most notably DeMar bounced back. In the final 19 games, he scored 20.4 points per game with 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds and shot 54% from the field.

You could say the All-Star break really helped him, because those last couple of games in February where wehn he began to really come back into form. The whole team did.

They went on a nine-game winning streak with DeMar as the leader of it all.

His defense got much better as well. DeRozan played passing lanes excellently, and he was playing much better on-ball defense (watch his tape against the Warriors).

DeMar DeRozan led this team back from the depths of that Rodeo Road Trip to clinch the seventh seed in the West after being all but counted out during that rough month of February.

Next: Playoffs

DENVER, CO – APRIL 13: DeMar DeRozan (10) of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to wrapping up the game after a turnover by Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – APRIL 13: DeMar DeRozan (10) of the San Antonio Spurs reacts to wrapping up the game after a turnover by Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

Playoffs:

DeMar had a very good playoff series outside of a horrendous first half of Game Seven.

DeMar’s playoff series showed his importance to this team. He continuously found players open for shots by drawing the defense in and kicking the ball out to a variety of shooters. His mid-range jumpers fell at a good clip of 49%.

Throughout the postseason, you saw glimpses of his greatness. Whether it be the slow, methodical art of the mid-range, the pinpoint passing, or the ability to play solid team defense, he was on point for a majority of this series.

However, that first half of Game Seven was brutal. After a 1-for-10 first half, he was discouraged bythe missed shots, but the aggressiveness was still there.

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The minds of Spurs fans went crazy because disappearing in the playoffs is what you heard about DeMar for years in Toronto. But he bounced back to have a strong second half in the Spurs’ comeback attempt.

After going 6-for-11 in the second half, the aggressiveness and ability to score buckets kept the Spurs in the game.

While the last play came down to a driving layup where DeMar clearly got fould but it wasn’t called, he ultimately missed but that wasn’t the reason why the Spurs lost. His midrange game is streaky, but DeRozan ulitmately led the team back to have a chance to win the series at the end which is exactly where they’d hope to be as a massive first round underdog.

Next: Season Grade

SAN ANTONIO, TX – OCTOBER 7: Derrick White #4 and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs exchange high fives against the Houston Rockets on October 7, 2018 at AT&T Center, in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – OCTOBER 7: Derrick White #4 and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs exchange high fives against the Houston Rockets on October 7, 2018 at AT&T Center, in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Season Grade

DeMar DeRozan cumulative grade for 2018-2019: B+.

Things I liked

His smooth transition into this system was something I enjoyed and loved to see. He is that good. In this system, he does everything.

Rebounding, passing, creating, and the true basketball minds appreciate it.

I love how easythe game comes to him, it is a vibe the whole team feeds off of.

In a system where ball movement and creating of shots for such strong spot -up shooters is necessary, he brings that element that the Spurs desperately needed.

We found out this year that DeMar can be a great passer because of his great court vision.

Offensively, he’s very smart. Defensively, he knows he isn’t the most athletic, which leads him to make the smart defensive play more times than not.

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His mid-range shot is cash money. He can finish at the rim in a variety of ways. He can space the floor quite well, even if he isn’t the one that is shooting the three.

DeMar plays with a ton of heart, and he showed plenty of leadership this year. His ability to bring the best out of the squad is under-appreciated and doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

He did get a couple of technichal fouls this year, but it usually gives this team good energy rather than negative energy.

DeRozan and Pop really work well together.

Things I think he needs to work on:

Three-point shooting. Yes, Coach Pop said he needs to shoot more threes and they’ll get him working on that this summer. It’s time for that to be a bigger point of emphasis.

If he can shoot around 33-34% from deep, I believe he can really become a big issue for defenses. A majority of his three-point attempts will be wide open because the scouting report says he can’t make them. He needs to cash them. They will dare him into it.

A strong outside shooting game will only enhance the amount of clean looks he’ll get from his sweet spot in the mid-range.

DeMar needs to improve his on-ball defense as well.

His footwork isn’t the cleanest defensively, and he gets beaten too often. He plays solid team defense and can play passing lanes well, but in an iso-heavy league he can struggle at times.

DeRozan also gets beaten backdoor a little too often and he needs to clean that up.

Next: Conclusion

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Demar Derozan #10 speaks with Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Denver Nuggets on December 28, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Demar Derozan #10 speaks with Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Denver Nuggets on December 28, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Conclusion

DeMar has been a great asset to this team.

With many ups and downs like every regular season, he has shown that he is well worth it for this organization. While there’s always going to be things he needs to work on, he provided a much-needed edge and overall ability that this version of the Spurs needed.

DeRozan’s ability to create shots for many players who can’t create on their own and the ability to get to the line when the Spurs aren’t scoring make him the MVP of this team.

His B+ grade was based on performance, circumstance, situation, and his overall mindset. It was a phenomenal first year with the Spurs.

We saw him grow and take things game by game. As the season went on you can tell he became more and more comfortable in the system, which only leads to optimism and excitement for the years to come.

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I believe he can be a building block for the Spurs in the future, especially if he’s able to add that elusive three-point shot to his game.

A lot of the Spurs struggles this past year weren’t on him necessarily either. This was a young group who hadn’t played much together, and we really started to see them gel at the end of the season.

While a lot of credit needs to go to Gregg Popovich for helping expand DeMar’s game in this system, you have to definitely give credit to DeRozan for being open-minded from an offensive standpoint. His usual 24-27 points per game isn’t necessary in this team basketball system, but remaining efficient and distributing the ball well remain essential to success.

DeMar shot his highest field goal percentage since his rookie season (he only shot 6 shots that year) while posting his career highs in assists and rebounds. His game is one that will change and progress well, which is a great sign now that he’s turning the age of 30.

He also helped tamped down the narrative of his playoff struggles.

Even in games where he didn’t shoot well, DeMar remained aggressive and was continuously finding open looks for the entire team. He never shied away from the moment and continued to fight through everything.

It would be one thing if when he struggling that he took his foot off the gas, but the struggle only made him go even harder. It shows his basketball character.

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He’s a good man and I am more than happy with DeMar DeRozan in a Spurs uniform. Until further notice, he will be the best player on this team, and one that will definitely help the growth of this young Spurs bunch.

This is really long article so thank you for tuning in. Until next time, Go Spurs Go.

Check out our other season review articles as well:

Derrick White

Marco Belinelli

Bryn Forbes

Jakob Poeltl

Lonnie Walker

Chimezie Metu

Drew Eubanks

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