San Antonio Spurs: The case against trading DeMar DeRozan
By Dylan Carter
Trade rumors regarding DeMar DeRozan have run rampant across the internet, but the San Antonio Spurs would be unwise to trade their star shooting guard.
Amongst all of the assets that Western Conference contenders have flaunted over recent weeks, the San Antonio Spurs hold firm with consistent growth within their group and a trust in the team’s ability to compete against any opponent. Without the services of shot creating savant DeMar DeRozan, this team could crumble against the pressure of its opposition.
As soon as he landed in San Antonio, DeRozan embraced the Spurs organization and adapted seamlessly into Gregg Popovich’s instructed style of play. The 29-year-old carried an immediate voice of leadership for a group rallying from a season of uncharacteristic chaos. As part of his transition to San Antonio, DeRozan shifted to a pass-first role after Dejounte Murray’s untimely injury left the point guard position open for grabs.
DeRozan averaged a career-best 6.2 assists, elevating his on-court impact to a whole new level. He meshed easily with the team’s core – in large part due to his pre-established relationship with newly re-signed forward Rudy Gay. His professionalism, dedication to the craft and general demeanor align perfectly with the Spurs.
For as much as DeRozan has been criticized – and rightfully so in some cases – it’s extremely difficult to return the value for a player of his caliber, especially without attaching other assets. DeRozan brings his all to the court each night out and is devoted to improving himself in all aspects with each passing season.
Pegged as a score-first iso scorer for a large portion of his career, DeRozan is using his time in San Antonio to show off his game changing impact on both ends of the floor.
Next: An underrated defensive renaissance
An underrated defensive renaissance
Before his first season in black and silver, DeMar DeRozan never posted a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus with his career-best being -0.7. He improved that mark to a 0.5 as a Spur with the assistance of defense-oriented coaches and a new outlook on the sport.
DeRozan was more active with his hands than ever before, tying his career-best 86 steals in a single season. He became more aware of ball handlers besides his matchup and jumped into passing lanes.
As a result, DeRozan tallied a career-best 151 deflections for an average of two per game. This kind of effort warrants more respect than its garnered from the public eye, but those who paid attention to him this season can attest to some serious grittiness from the California-native.
An improved commitment to defense has transformed the way that DeRozan is seen by Spurs fans. Prior to his arrival to the team, Toronto’s golden boy was viewed as a one-dimensional player that emphasized offense above defense.
He wasn’t a poor defender, but it was evident that his main priority was scoring. Now that he’s transitioned to the Alamo City and has embraced the Spurs Way, DeRozan has added another defensive facet to his game that should help propel his team forward.
DeMar’s commitment to defense shows a level of trust in the organization that shouldn’t be disrupted with an untimely trade – give him the time to put in work and DeRozan’s talent will shine in San Antonio.
Next: Fit with team culture
Fit with team culture
After a tumultuous season that led to DeRozan’s arrival in the Alamo City, it’s been easy for San Antonio to embrace the consistency that the veteran leader brings to the table. You always know what you’re getting from DeRozan – a hardworking individual with an effective yet limited style of play. More so than anything else, the Spurs knew what kind of person they were bringing into their locker room.
DeRozan has a good heart, through and through. His intentions are to unite his teammates and work collaboratively with others with the ultimate goal of competing for a championship – regardless of the expectations and blinding criticisms placed upon him by outside sources. For as divisive as his on-court production may be amongst the fanbase, no one can deny that DeRozan embodied the Spurs Way better than most players of his caliber ever could. It’s in his nature as an individual.
Gregg Popovich’s program capitalizes on the professional’s all-around worldview, affirming that his main priority is to help his players to be calculated operators on the court and open-minded individuals off the court. Trading away DeRozan would disrupt the harmonious chemistry that this group established in the 2018-19 season.
San Antonio just returned DeRozan’s close personal friend Rudy Gay on a two-year deal. Their chemistry translates to the hardwood through crafty maneuvering and versatile scoring tactics in the half court. As a result, the tandem generated a 111.0 Offensive Rating through 1,283 minutes alongside each other in the regular season.
Consistency is one of the main advantages that this group carries into next season and it would be a shame to see that go to waste.
Next: Returning his value via trade
Returning his value via trade
Given the current market and general distrust of the four-time All-Star, trading DeRozan would likely result in a faulty return that’d fail to reciprocate the value that DeRozan provides to this group. The suggestion that San Antonio’s guard rotation of Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Bryn Forbes could make up for the loss of DeRozan has been floated, but this is wildly disrespectful to the overall impact and talent that he brings to the table.
In a potential trade return, the Spurs would need to make up for the loss of their second leading scorer and best overall playmaker while getting younger and improving defense. It’s hard to conceive of a trade package that could do all of that while allowing the team to remain competitive, and tanking isn’t an option for this organization.
Star players force their way out of organizations frequently in the modern era of the NBA and DeRozan could conceivably be a trade chip down the road. Some notable players that come to mind are Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Should the team decide that moving in a new direction would be best for their future, it’d be worth waiting for someone of this caliber to enter the trade market.
DeRozan has a team option after the 2019-20 season worth $27,739,975 according to Spotrac and could opt to leave the Alamo City. This would open up a world of cap space for the team in the following offseason, enabling the Spurs to pivot in a new direction and pursue a fresh timeline focused on their young core.
Unless things go terribly awry leading up to the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline and the team’s hand is forced, keeping DeRozan in San Antonio is the most feasible course of action for a team hoping to secure home court advantage in the coming year.