San Antonio Spurs: The case for extending DeMar DeRozan’s contract

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan looks on during a practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan looks on during a practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
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DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 7: LaMarcus Aldridge #12, and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs on Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 7: LaMarcus Aldridge #12, and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs on Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Compton-native DeMar DeRozan should be looking for homes in the Alamo City because the San Antonio Spurs should extend his contract with the team.

The San Antonio Spurs should extend their All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan. Various NBA Twitter GM’s put their bio resumes on the line, claiming that their “sources” indicate DeRozan is on the trading block. Not only is that a waste of ear space, but it’s very illogical, and a somewhat of a setback for the silver and black.

DeRozan had a career-year in San Antonio and his numbers speak for themselves. As the newly-turned 30-year-old put up career highs in nearly every statistical category besides scoring, his impact was driven and showcased much more than his average scoring outputs. DeRozan and the Spurs’ offense were changed from the jump – especially after their starting point guard Dejounte Murray went out for the season. Second-year sleeper Derrick White started the year banged up and 2018 mid-first round pick Lonnie Walker IV was on the trainer’s table to start the season before ultimately spending most of his rookie year in lovely Cedar Park.

When San Antonio acquired DeRozan from Toronto, the fanbase knew what time it was. The most mid-range heavy team added one of, if not, the best mid-range jump-shooter in the entire NBA. The Compton-native seemed to be a perfect fit in year one as the Spurs once again made the playoffs.

Led by DeRozan, the team seemed to be getting a little younger and much healthier for this coming year. All that being said, you can call DeRozan to exemplify his experience level, ability to create a variety of open looks for others and scoring instincts.

He improves this roster in many ways that aren’t looked for in a stat sheet. While his assist numbers were higher, his ability to constantly create looks for players who lack the ability to create their own offense goes somewhat unnoticed by many.

While the Spurs are built somewhat well for a drive-and-kick three-point team, DeRozan was the driving force (no pun intended) for this Spurs offense to lead the NBA in three-point percentage. To have guys like Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes among the league’s best in catch-and-shoot percentages while shooting by far the most mid-range shots per game is impressive, all while maintaining the fifth most efficient team-offense in the entire NBA.

Next: Emphasizing his importance and growth in San Antonio

SACRAMENTO, CA – FEBRUARY 4: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs coaches DeMar DeRozan #10 against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA – FEBRUARY 4: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs coaches DeMar DeRozan #10 against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Emphasizing DeRozan’s importance and growth in San Antonio

In the 2018-19 season, DeMar DeRozan led Spurs in assists, steals, usage rate and minutes per game while tying in points and finishing third in rebounds. In play-by-play and advanced statistics, DeRozan was a plus when he was on the court. DeMar’s overarching impact on all players was felt from the jump.

When you break down the roster in San Antonio, you find an abundance of role players who struggle to create their own shots but are very good at the little things that are asked of them. Guys like Forbes, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Davis Bertans are modern-day catch-and-shoot specialists. DeMar’s ability to navigate through traffic, find the open man and deliver the ball perfectly to the right half-court rotation was on display on numerous nights. At one point in the season, DeMar led the NBA in assists off three-point shots and that is colossal.

White entered the lineup as a young, inexperienced player coming off of injury. He struggled to create his own shots at times and played many of his minutes alongside DeMar. It was evident that his game elevated while playing alongside DeRozan.

When you have a guy out there like DeRozan who commands all eyes as he takes the game one step inside the three-point line, that means a lot. White, who shot 2.1 three-point shots per game, averaged nearly two of those 2.1 attempts off of catch-and-shoot three-pointers.

Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge, who haven’t been treated kindly by analytics, hit their field goal percentage peaks playing alongside DeMar DeRozan. Gay, Patty Mills, Forbes, Bertans and Marco Belinelli all finished among the NBA’s best, shooting 39.7 percent or better off of catch- and-shoot threes.

This team leaned on DeRozan, especially when the year started rough. After starting 11-14, the Spurs closed out the year on a 37-24 record, which is a 50-win pace even after the worst Rodeo Road Trip in Spurs history.

Adding to his importance, DeRozan’s ability to create dependable offense in the clutch went under the radar as well. According to NBA.com, DeMar DeRozan shot 45 percent in the clutch this past season. For context, players within .02 of attempts in his are as followed: Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Paul George. DeRozan beat out all of them in terms of field goal percentage and had the best record out of the 38 games where he was asked to get a bucket in the clutch at 22-16.

Next: The young core is too inexperienced to thrive without guidance

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

The young core is too inexperienced to thrive without guidance

It’s been very exciting to watch the Spurs’ young core blossom, but at this current point, they are just that – a young core.

Many NBA teams sit on their couch in Mid-May, praying for a ping-pong ball. Deciding against extending, or even trading away, a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player who had his best all-around season of his career in just his first year in a new system is ludicrous. DeRozan provided a consistent 21-6-6 last season, he’s in his in his prime and he started the first two months out averaging 25-6-5 on 53 percent shooting. Getting rid of that in favor of inexperienced 21-to-23-year-olds doesn’t make much sense to me.

While the young core is definitely here to stay and I’m glad they’re here, let’s not rush into this. Just like quarterback Dwayne Haskins, San Antonio should let this pot simmer, throw some seasoning on it, let it marinate and pop it in the oven to cook later.

White showed flashes during the playoffs, especially in Game Three of the first round where he dropped a smooth 36 points, 5 dimes and 5 boards on 71 percent shooting. His next four games after, he barely hit that mark in total at 37 total points on 36 percent shooting from the field.

Obviously, a young player will have a ton of ups and downs, but he isn’t ready to take over just yet. To add, White is currently slotted at the shooting guard spot. He is a little bit undersized at 6-foot-4 and doesn’t yet have the tools to have a consistent offensive output. Having DeRozan play the small forward is ideal at this point, considering he played 98 percent of his minutes at that position last season, I feel Derrick benefitted, as the entire team did last season, with No. 10 right next to him.

Dejounte Murray is a great defensive-minded point guard. He can make plays, get to the basket and defend his assignment from 94 feet out. To date, jump shot is uncertain, although he isn’t limited in the same breath as Ben Simmons as a jump-shooter, but his shot is nowhere near proven yet. Before the injury, he was working out with shooting coach Chip Engelland, consistently practicing his jumper and he seems to have gotten much better at it. After an ACL injury, the Spurs will surely ease him back into the fold. As someone who hasn’t been proven much offensively, this Spurs team couldn’t afford to not have a sure-fire offensive scorer like DeRozan.

Players like Lonnie Walker IV, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson are simply too young. Lonnie had an impressive statistical Summer League showing, but in NBA action last season, showed he wasn’t close to ready. While some of his traits blasted off the screen like his crazy athleticism and his ability to create separation off the dribble, he’s still got a lot of work to do.

With increased playing time comes stronger performances but throwing him into the fire to start in this league in just his second season after showing zero signs of being consistent isn’t entirely smart. Luka and Keldon, should enjoy that weather up there in North Austin for most of the season. We won’t see much of them this coming year.

Next: Can't replace DeRozan's value, might as well extend it

SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 2: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs jocks for a position during the game against CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 2: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs jocks for a position during the game against CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Can’t replace DeRozan’s value, might as well extend it

Be honest, who is replacing what DeMar DeRozan does for his team? Consistent offense, crazy playmaking ability and exceptional ball-handling are hard to come by. DeRozan is the type of player to make his teammates better – he gets them cleaner looks – watch the tape.

This isn’t a very hard decision. Yes, the long twos have to slow down a bit. Yes, he isn’t the best on-ball defender. Yes, he doesn’t shoot threes. Come year two in San Antonio, I believe a lot of that will be different.

With Coach Pop saying DeRozan will shoot more threes this coming season, the numerous workouts we see where he’s taking side-step threes and pulling up from dead-center, change is coming. He will still lead the NBA in mid-range attempts, but his ability to adapt and become more dynamic will also come. In this Spurs system, it has to. He had a very impressive first year and I’m sure nobody thinks that’s the best it gets. As he’s a player in his prime, the best is yet to come.

DeMar DeRozan is a top-four shooting guard in the NBA and I believe he should be paid like so. His importance and ability at 6-foot-7 to play at both the shooting guard and small forward spot is key to letting the Spurs’ bankroll of guards play out with him. He’s a great locker room presence, he has strong morals, he’s never in trouble, he stays lowkey and truly fits in as a Spur.

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I would offer DeMar the same deal that Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum received – his extension should be three years, $100 Million with a player option in the third year.

This extension would give the Spurs the absolute maximum ability to win right now with the way Coach Pop’s contract situation is set up and gives prospective replacement coach Becky Hammon a good foundation and a final year of DeRozan to shape up the locker room if Pop moves on at that point. They can pass the torch on the court to the next man up while most likely still winning a lot of games.

DeRozan’s play style will age well as he is a very smart offensive player. He isn’t a selfish ball player and will be a benefit to the young guys in many ways, both on and off the court. This gives the young core plenty of time to flourish while allowing the Spurs keep their Top 20 NBA player through his prime while also giving him a sufficient raise.

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It’s a deal I feel works best for both sides as DeRozan pockets another $100 million, but he gives his all on the court as the Spurs’ chemistry, DeRozan’s consistent ability to create for himself and others and emphasis on team basketball continues to correlate to playoff berths.

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