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Second season leaves questions about DeRozan’s future with Spurs

DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /

He played well in his second season with the San Antonio Spurs but questions remain about DeMar DeRozan’s long-term fit with the team

In his first season with the San Antonio Spurs DeMar DeRozan had one of the most efficient years of his career. In year two he was back for more. Even as the Spurs struggled to fight back into playoff position it was typically DeRozan who was leading them to wins.

When the Spurs were at their best DeRozan was attacking the rim, LaMarcus Aldridge was spacing the floor, and they were one of the better offenses in the league. But even DeRozan led the team through the ups and downs of the season, questions around his future with the team remained a constant shadow.

The Toronto Raptors needed to make a change to reach that next level. And while the Spurs aren’t going to be gunning for a ring next year, they’re in a somewhat similar stage in their relationship with the former Raptors star.

As he approaches a pivotal point in his time in San Antonio there isn’t much clarity on how DeRozan plans to handle his player-option or if he and the Spurs are working towards an extension. After turning in another solid season with the silver and black, DeRozan has a strong case for why he deserves a deal.

Next: New level of aggression on offense

SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 29: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots over Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic during second half action at AT&T Center (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 29: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots over Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic during second half action at AT&T Center (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

DeRozan has career year at the rim

DeRozan’s mid-range game is being gradually phased out of the NBA but even as the league shifts behind the arc, the Spurs star wing continues to find ways to lead the Spurs in scoring. In the 2019-20 season, he did that by attacking the rim more than ever before.

It was no surprise that the Spurs were near the bottom of the league in 3-pointers attempted (28th) but it does make DeRozan’s improvements in the paint more impressive. Even when opposing defenses knew what was coming he still found a way to get to the basket in new ways.

DeRozan was shooting 26.9 percent of his field-goal attempts within three feet of the rim this year. That’s his highest percentage since his second year in the league. He connected 73.9 percent of his shots within that same range, setting a new career-high from that distance. He doesn’t show off the hops that made him a Slam Dunk competitor as much but he’s still finding crafty ways to get to the rim.

https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/06/0021900328/395/2b4a3a2d-040d-2d44-1e01-83819f46ab95_1280x720.mp4

Another thing that stood out about DeRozan’s offensive game was his efficiency in pick and roll situations. While he was running in those situations less frequently this year, he was scoring like never before. Working with a variety of partners he set a new career-high in points per possession this season.

More than just a scorer, DeRozan continued to show off the playmaking skills that he surprised Spurs fans with last year. He had started to get more involved in his final year in Toronto but has since taken it to new heights with San Antonio. He was assisting on 26 percent of the Spurs baskets before the season was suspended, just a bit south of where he was last year.

All in all, it was another good season from DeRozan. He was more efficient than ever before, a lead scoring threat for the team, and continued to show off a well-balanced offensive game. But for as good as DeRozan did, the Spurs struggled. And that’s raising some questions.

Next: Concerns for the future

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 08: DeMar DeRozan. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 08: DeMar DeRozan. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Did DeRozan get the extension he is looking for?

We know who DeRozan is as a player. He had a good season at the rim and has continued to improve as a playmaker but he’s still not defending well, isn’t shooting three’s, and is taking away minutes from younger guys on the roster. Have the past two seasons been enough to convince the Spurs to accept the good with the bad and make DeRozan a key part of their future?

He led them in scoring and was their most important player, but DeRozan’s defense was an issue for the Spurs all season long. Opponents were scoring 113.9 points per 100 possessions against the Spurs when DeRozan was on the floor compared to 106.7 when he sat.

To be fair, while he didn’t take any steps forward on defense, it’s not like he completely disappeared on that end of the floor either. That he was fourth on the team in defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus tells you more about the Spurs than it does DeRozan. He’s far from the weakest link in the defensive chain.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the year that DeRozan decided to start letting it go from deep. He had attempted just 30 3-pointers before the season was suspended. It’s just not part of his game. It never has been and it likely never will be.

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DeRozan is a good player, the best on the Spurs right now, but so much of what he does well isn’t in line with where the team seems to be heading. It’s impossible to look at Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and Keldon Johnson and not feel cautiously optimistic about the future of the Spurs. But it’s hard to see them playing together often if DeRozan is on the team.

He’s preventing Murray and White from handling the ball as much as they probably should be. There’s reason to believe that the team would be better off with either one of Walker or Johnson defending opposing wings. As much as DeRozan helps the Spurs, their future might be better off without him in it.

We got a glimpse of what the Spurs could look like without DeRozan when he sat out the final two games of the first leg of the Rodeo Road Trip. In those two games, we saw the ball in Murray’s hands more than before. The result was a fast offense, more passing, and the Spurs’ best win of the road trip.

That’s part of why it’s looking more and more like DeRozan has played his final game in a Spurs uniform. There is still a chance that he signs an extension but CNBC’s Jabari Young has made it clear that it’s not trending in that direction.

Next. Three improvements we’d like to see from Keldon Johnson

He’s given the San Antonio Spurs two of the best seasons of his career but DeMar DeRozan didn’t choose to come to Texas. Now he has the freedom to choose where he signs what’s likely to be the last major deal of his career. It’s been a fun run but DeRozan and the Spurs should both recognize that this match isn’t going to work in the long run.

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