We’ve finally made it up to the Atlantic Division and as you may have already guessed, the San Antonio Spurs are sending DeMar DeRozan back home.
When the San Antonio Spurs made that fateful trade to bring DeMar DeRozan to town in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, they had their backs against the wall. Head coach Gregg Popovich willed the front office to send him East so that they didn’t have to run into a healthy Kawhi in the next season when he returned to form from what felt like an elaborate holdout. Leonard took the Raptors to a championship and went to L.A. anyway, leaving the Spurs in the dust.
Now, both organizations will reach a crossroads again as DeRozan inches toward the back-half of his career. The 30-year-old wing is the best version of himself by far, emphasizing his team and an extensive passing repertoire over the isolation-heavy style he was accustomed to. DeRozan would be a decent fit for Nick Nurse’s team-based style with a wealth of defenders around him to mask that mediocre defensive skill set.
With a ton of cap space due to the expiring contracts of both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, the Spurs can pick their poison with sign-and-trade candidates. Considering their frontcourt woes and the recovery of LaMarcus Aldridge, they need to address their power forward/center position with defensive-minded players to make a playoff push next year.
DeMar DeRozan (S&T) makes his triumphant return to the Toronto Raptors as Serge Ibaka (S&T) and Norman Powell head west to the San Antonio Spurs.
Details include DeRozan earning a three-year, $82.5 million contract ($30 million in 2021, $27.5 million in 2022, $25 million in 2023) and Ibaka earning a three-year, $40 million contract ($14.5 million in 2021, $13.5 million in 2022, $12 million in 2023).
The Spurs have the money to absorb Ibaka on a new contract and put him in a position to thrive without taking away from their budding core. Ibaka can play off of both Jakob Poeltl, who San Antonio got in the first trade between these teams, and Aldridge in a solid frontcourt rotation. He fits at both the power forward and center and could return to his dominant weak-side shot-blocking ways playing off of those two talented bigs.
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San Antonio also returns breakout player Norman Powell, who averaged 16.2 points per game on 50.2 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from deep with 3.7 boards and 1.3 steals. He’s a solid all-around player who pushes the tempo in transition and could take over Bryn Forbes’ role for the team as he enters unrestricted free agency. Powell is a fan favorite in Toronto, so they’re not going to like that part of it, but it’s extremely hard to win without a star in the East and Siakam is still just getting his feet wet as a No. 1 guy.
DeRozan would get to pair up with his best friend, Kyle Lowry, once again and take all that they’ve learned in this two-season gap to compete for a championship. Raptors fans probably wouldn’t believe me, but DeRozan isn’t the same guy they traded way back when. He’s a more mature version of himself who truly stepped up for the Spurs in the seven-game postseason run last year.
San Antonio needs to trend in a different direction because they’re built to compete in a few years. Toronto has long-term options and viability between Siakam, free agent Fred VanVleet, Anunoby and others, but also has a window of opportunity to compete in the immediate future. I think President of Basketball Ops Masai Ujiri considers it if the Raptors get bounced before the ECF.
You can find other articles in this series by clicking on the team name below:
Western Conference: LA Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies. Eastern Conference: Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics.