In his first season with the San Antonio Spurs, DeMar DeRozan put up career-high numbers. Will he continue to rise in his second season with the team, or fall back to earth?
Change is typically a slow and deliberate process. It happens over time and is the result of hundreds of small individual things that came before it. For the San Antonio Spurs, change happened fast in the summer of 2018. By trading Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, the Spurs made a massive change to what the future of the franchise would look like.
The prize piece of the trade for San Antonio was DeMar DeRozan. After spending his entire career in Toronto up until that point, DeRozan looked like a finished product. But in his first year with the Spurs, he found a way to surprise those who may have thought he had reached his ceiling.
While his scoring remained in the same range it has for the majority of his career, DeRozan’s rebounding and playmaking to markable steps forward. It was his playmaking ability that shone throughout the season.
Call him a beneficiary of circumstances if you will, but DeRozan stepped up in a big way for the Spurs with his ability to run the offense. With Dejounte Murray out for the entire season and Derrick White missing for the first few weeks it fell to DeRozan to pick up the slack. He rose to the occasion, averaging a career-high 6.2 assists per game.
This season will be different for both the Spurs and DeRozan. A healthy Murray, an improved White, and promising Lonnie Walker have the San Antonio backcourt more crowded than it has been in years. The question is, how will DeRozan adjust?
Will he band together with his younger backcourt mates to form a rampaging group of dunkers and slashers? Or will he gradually be phased out in favor of younger players?
Next: The Best Case Scenario
The best-case scenario for DeMar DeRozan in his second season with the San Antonio Spurs looks like him maintaining his level of playmaking and rebounding, expanding his shooting touch, and picking up the pace of the offense.
The Spurs have never been a fast-paced, run and gun team. But they’re positioned to lean more in that direction than ever before. With multiple guards who are all capable of pulling down rebounds and pushing the pace, there is little reason for the Spurs to finish 28th in the league in fastbreak points again.
With the addition of Murray and growth of White, it’s assumed that DeRozan’s assist numbers will take a dip. And that’s fine. DeRozan doesn’t have to generate more assists than he did last year, but he can reduce his turnovers.
He averaged 2.6 turnovers per game last year, the highest number of his career. Of those turnovers, 94 came due to bad passes, another career-high. The increased playmaking duty handed to DeRozan last season was always going to have the side effect of increased turnovers and bad passes. But that’s something that he could rein in next year. Refining his playmaking and reducing turnovers would go a long way to helping the offense.
And if we’re talking best-case scenarios, how about developing a three-point shot? DeMar has never been an outside shooter. He would prefer to make his living with mid-range shots and around the hoop. To be fair, it’s worked out pretty well for him so far. But this year would be a good time to start shooting from deep.
Both Murray and White would prefer to attack the rim as well. If the Spurs are planning to play all three at once, and they should, problems may arise when defenses slack off on all of them and just pack the lane. If DeMar can develop enough of a three-point shot to at least keep his man with him when he goes out beyond the arc it would open up greater driving and cutting lanes for his teammates.
Ultimately the best-case scenario for DeRozan looks like him taking his young backcourt mates under his wing and forming the most terrifying group of guards in the West. A lofty goal to be sure, but one that could be attainable under the right circumstances.
Next: Worst Case Scenario
One of the criticisms of DeMar DeRozan’s game throughout his career is that he is an “empty calories” scorer. He can go out and get his twenty points per night on a variety of drives and mid-range shots, but its ultimately not enough to lead his teams to success. Critics of his have pointed to this as the core reason he was traded away from the Raptors in favor of someone who had a bit more substance to their game.
The worst-case scenario for DeRozan in 2019-20 looks like him proving those critics right. It looks like DeRozan going out and getting his points while the development of the Spurs younger guards stagnates in favor of a player chasing another big payday.
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DeRozan is in line for a new contract soon, and evidently, the Spurs have not ruled out giving him the max. Andrew Ites made the case for the Spurs not giving DeRozan a max contract. And if the Spurs aren’t going to extend him, perhaps DeRozan would do everything he can to jack up his numbers to entice another team. That might be the best-case scenario for DeMar’s wallet, but it would be the worst-case scenario for the San Antonio Spurs.
The worst-case scenario looks like DeRozan jab-stepping at his man, backing him down for a few seconds, and then clanging a mid-range jumper off the rim while Murray and Walker stand open and waving their hands for the ball.
The worst-case scenario is DeMar tanking the potential of his teammates in favor of a potential paycheck and ultimately forcing the Spurs to trade him at the deadline for pennies on the dollar.
To be clear, I do not think this worst-case scenario will come to fruition. Between DeMar’s impact with the team last year, his fit within the Spurs culture, and everything that has been said about him as a person, I do not think he would tank the team’s success in favor of his gain.
The best-case scenario could be really special for San Antonio. It would have the Spurs young guards all taking a leap under the tutelage of DeRozan and springboarding the team to another decade of rampant success. The worst-case scenario is DeRozan tanking the team to secure the bag. Tell me, which do you think is more likely to happen?