With the San Antonio Spurs’ struggles to begin the season, DeMar DeRozan’s name has been widely circulated in the rumor mill. Should he be moved, could DeRozan find himself in the ATL?
As the NBA regular season passes the quarter mark, teams across the league have begun taking stock of their situations. Is it time to blow it up and start a full-blown rebuild? Do they need a veteran wing or a 3-point specialist to take their team from the middle of the pack to contender status? The San Antonio Spurs are just one of the teams grappling with these tough decisions.
The Spurs find themselves in a precarious situation, currently sitting at the 11th spot in the West. Despite an exhilarating 2OT win over the Rockets, championed by Lonnie Walker IV, that was followed up by another overtime thriller against the Kings, the Spurs have been rather underwhelming all season. The return of a healthy Dejounte Murray hasn’t had the anticipated results many hoped for and it’s safe to say that the Spurs won’t be contending for a title come season’s end.
If San Antonio does decide to break character and opt towards a rebuild, the first order of business should be finding a new home for DeMar DeRozan. Although the former All-Star has been solid during his short stint in the Alamo City, DeRozan’s iso-heavy, mid-range game hasn’t been conducive to leading teams with championship aspirations.
DeMar has been one of the more popular names that have come up when discussing potential movers. San Antonio’s mediocre record only reinforces the sentiment that trading the swingman is the best course of action.
DeRozan is a smart fit for any team that’s seeking instant offense and there’s already a list of suitors, including the Rockets, Pistons, Kings, Magic and, ironically enough, the Raptors, who are interested in his services.
One team that has not been mentioned yet but is also in sore need of an offensive facelift is the Atlanta Hawks. After a breakout sophomore season, John Collins was slapped with a 25-game suspension that has sidelined him for all but 5 games this season. This is one of the primary reasons why the Hawks are currently sitting at the 13th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta’s recent losing skid has taken its toll on budding star Trae Young, whose frustrations bubbled over this past weekend after the Hawks fell to the Nets. After the team’s 11th loss in 12 games, Young was reportedly involved in what was described as “an emotional locker room scene.”
However, the young point guard was given reassurances by a high-ranking team official that he would be receiving some help on the roster soon. Could that help come from San Antonio?
For Atlanta, the move for DeRozan is pretty simple. The Hawks rank 23rd in offensive rating and most nights have been exclusively the Trae Young show. But, the injection of a veteran scorer would immediately alleviate the immense offensive burden Young has had to shoulder during Collins’ absence.
While DeRozan can be considered a mid-range virtuoso, his fit alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, another inner-arc creature of habit, sparks a traffic jam in the paint whenever the two are on the court together.
However, Young is a certified sniper and Collins has demonstrated improved floor-spacing abilities, hitting 1.8 three’s a game before his suspension. That spacing would allow DeRozan to operate freely without crossing lanes with Atlanta’s two blossoming stars. Furthermore, DeRozan’s veteran presence would be a welcome sight for one of the youngest cores in the NBA.
DeMar does possess a player option after this season so there is the possibility this could be just a half-season rental. But, should DeRozan chose to opt-in for the 2020-21 season, his contract will still be off the books by the following summer, clearing up plenty of cap space for the Hawks to go big star hunting.
The tricky part comes with actually trying to formulate an agreement that would satisfy needs for both sides. Almost all of Atlanta’s roster is composed of rookies, 2nd or 3rd-year players and then a large cohort of players on expiring deals.
If the Hawks are willing to deal one of their younger players like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, or Kevin Huerter, attach a pick and an offsetting contract like Chandler Parsons, Evan Turner or Allen Crabbe then the Spurs should be willing to listen.
However, San Antonio would have to make peace with the fact that they’d be getting a very raw prospect in return.
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De’Andre Hunter has shown flashes on both ends of the court but scouts have always questioned his offensive ceiling. On the flip side, Hunter was a defensive stud at UVA and was the key cog that made the Hoos the stingiest defensive squad in the country while leading them to an NCAA title.
Cam Reddish has all of the physical gifts one looks for in a prospect but his rookie year has been atrocious. Reddish has yet to find his shooting stroke from pretty much anywhere. He’s converting an anemic 31.8 percent from the field and an even worse 25 percent from 3-point range. Reddish would by far be the biggest project, but he has the greatest potential between Hunter and Huerter.
Kevin Huerter hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug during his sophomore campaign after being saddled with several ailments throughout the season. The second-year Maryland product isn’t lighting it up from a points perspective (8.5 PPG), but he’s a legitimate sharpshooter and an underrated playmaker. The Spurs would greatly value Huerter’s shooting ability. He’s connecting on 1.7 three’s a game on roughly 40% shooting from long range on a nightly basis.
Atlanta has plenty of intriguing young assets but they could be reluctant to deal some of their recently drafted talents. Making a deal with the Hawks would almost ensure that the Spurs are all but phoning it in for the rest of the season as it’s unlikely they’d get back a piece that would allow them to vie for one of the last playoff spots.
Although a deal with the Hawks is an interesting thought experiment, I worry that both sides would be too far apart on an agreement that works for each team, which would lead the San Antonio Spurs to seek out more compatible compensation elsewhere.