Should the San Antonio Spurs extend DeMar DeRozan’s contract this season?
By Dylan Carter
With an impending opt-out for next season, the San Antonio Spurs need to make some decisions regarding DeMar DeRozan’s future with the team.
Over the last 11 games, the San Antonio Spurs have seen what may be the best stretch of scoring machine DeMar DeRozan’s 11-year professional career. In this span, DeRozan has become the first player since Michael Jordan to shoot 52% or better on an average of 16 or more field goal attempts per contest.
Putting himself in the same category as His Airness himself warrants some questioning of DeRozan’s longterm commitment to San Antonio. It was reported in the offseason that the Spurs and DeRozan were far from reaching terms on a contract extension, and rightfully so. While last season was one of his best from a team standpoint, DeRozan still left a lot to be desired as the returning piece on a deal for last year’s Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard.
Now in a contract year, DeRozan is taking all that he’s learned while playing for the Spurs and transformed himself into the best version of himself. In these 11 games, he’s averaging 27 points, 5.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals on a whopping 63.4% shooting from the field. He’s getting to the rim and forcing whistles, making 87.8% of 7.5 free throws per contest.
A max extension would be worth $150 million over four years, averaging out at $37.5 million per year. This would be heinous for a team that’s scraping the surface of the playoffs with DeRozan as its leader. The Spurs also have a history of working with their players to find deals that benefit all parties, affording the front office a chance to keep the team’s core intact while pursuing other players in the meanwhile.
If the Spurs don’t want to pay for DeRozan’s services, someone certainly will in spite of the general public’s misconceptions of his playstyle. No, he’s more than likely never going to be a three-point sniper, but he doesn’t need to in order to be an effective player. DeRozan controls gravity into the mid-range and paint like no other at his position, creating opportunities for himself and others in the process.
This is a trait that great basketball minds throughout the league will take notice of, especially those with an array of shooters available to them. He’d also become arguably the most talented free agent on the market, assuming power forward Anthony Davis re-ups with the Los Angeles Lakers. Three organizations–Atlanta, Memphis and Cleveland–will enter free agency with enough money to pursue DeRozan and competent shooters to surround him.
There are still concerns regarding DeRozan’s leadership style, however. He’s had his moments in clutch situations but tends to play hero ball in big moments when he would be better off deferring to teammates. The 31-year-old leads the team in clutch field goal attempts but shoots only 43.8% in close late-game scenarios.
He’s infamous for choking games away and while he’s been better at this than in the past, DeRozan still forces shots late when he should be setting up teammates or letting someone else take the reigns.
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Everyone is going to formulate their own opinion regarding DeRozan’s future with this organization. I wouldn’t want to give DeRozan anything greater than the deal that his cohort LaMarcus Aldridge is playing under right now: two years, $50 million, fully guaranteed. Until he proves that he can be the best player on a team competing through the first round of the playoffs out West, he’s not worth sacrificing the team’s future.
That is also operating under the assumption that the Spurs don’t make a win-now move at the trade deadline or in the offseason. If an All-Star caliber player joins the duo in San Antonio and the team begins winning consistently, then he may be worth extending.
This is not likely to be the case and the Spurs are better off waiting to see how this year plays out before committing large sums of money to a player that we’re unsure can get his team over the hurdles that have buried them thus far.
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The answer to DeRozan’s extension conundrum can only be answered by the conclusion of another question: Do the Spurs move forward with a win-now mindset or a focus on the future?