San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul make sense for the New York Knicks
By Dylan Carter
Rumor has it that the New York Knicks are preparing a trade offer for Chris Paul. The San Antonio Spurs could help them build with a DeMar DeRozan deal.
Just past the horizon of the Orlando bubble, a precariously constructed event that salvaged what was left of the 2020-21 NBA season. It was a resounding success for every team involved including the San Antonio Spurs, who put together an eight-game run to be proud of while setting the tempo for their future. On the flip side, organizations like the New York Knicks have waited patiently on the sidelines with the future of their league in flux.
There’s a new regime in The Big Apple led by agent-turned-executive Leon Rose, falling in line with a growing trend in NBA front offices. Rumors and reports, including this one by Knicks Film School and another by Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, suggest the team is preparing a trade offer to acquire future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
"You get that on film?"@DeMar_DeRozan | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/FiznUFTYNH
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 17, 2020
Rose represented Paul in his days as a player agent and the two are said to have a solid relationship. Considering Rose was brought to New York to legitimize the organization after years of tomfoolery, bringing in a gamer and basketball savant like CP3 makes perfect sense. However, Paul won’t be able to take the Knicks to the playoffs alone and the 2020 free-agent market is slim.
That’s where the San Antonio Spurs come into play. If Paul is traded to the Knicks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan head to New York shortly thereafter. While there’ve been tumultuous relations between the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs in the past, the operation has changed in New York. They may be more willing to negotiate for a fair deal that positions both sides of the trade for the future.
Before we get into specifics, we must first look at the New York Knicks’ position.
Next: Why would the Knicks trade for DeRozan?
Why would the New York Knicks trade the San Antonio Spurs for DeRozan?
Nevermind the fact that Paul is potentially coming to town — The New York Knicks have been linked to DeRozan for some time now. Back in March, Yahoo Sports reporter Chris B. Haynes reported that DeRozan will likely decline his player option if he and the San Antonio Spurs cannot come to terms on a contract extension. Only one team was mentioned as having shown interest in pursuing DeRozan this offseason: The New York Knicks.
If Rose and the new-look Knicks are serious about entering win-now mode, pursuing DeRozan is the way to go. He’s a stellar player in the prime of his career who’d likely return to the NBA All-Star game if he returned to the Eastern Conference. Despite missing out on the playoffs this season, DeRozan has grown into the best version of himself as a player and the Knicks need that kind of leadership moving forward.
Their interest in DeRozan should be amplified if the acquire Chris Paul. Despite aging like fine wine, there’s little evidence to suggest that Paul can lead a team to the playoffs without other intelligent, effective players around him as he has in Oklahoma City. New York’s leading scorer, Julius Randle, is a step below the likes of Steven Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danillo Gallinari in terms of development and leadership.
Paul and DeRozan are a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and the clock is ticking for New York. With Durant and Kyrie set to take over for their nemesis across the East River, the Knicks needs to make a splash before becoming a second-rate citizen in their own city.
Next: Working out a deal
Hypothetical trade details between the New York Knicks & San Antonio Spurs.
Manufacturing this deal is going to take some work from all parties involved. First and foremost, the San Antonio Spurs and DeMar DeRozan need to have a lengthy conversation. San Antonio isn’t going to send DeRozan anywhere that he’s not interested in going, which is why an extension would likely have to take place. The most DeRozan could make in an extension is in the four-year, 37.5 million range, which San Antonio isn’t going to give him.
However, New York might be willing to align his contract with Paul’s, which ends in 2022. I’d project a two-year extension for DeRozan worth $64 million, averaging out to $32 million in his two seasons with the Knicks. To be such a lucrative organization and perennially stink means you need to pay a premium for good players to join your group and that’s exactly what’d happen here.
Considering the Knicks are entering a win-now mindset in this deal, they shouldn’t have a problem getting off of Portis’ $15 million contract. He’s a solid floor-spacing big man who can play both the four and the five while bringing an edge to the position. Portis is versatile in that he can play off of any of the Spurs’ current bigs and make an impact as a veteran player. More so than anything, it’s important to note that Portis’ contract expires in 2021, lining up with the Spurs’ current structure.
Bullock brings a big-bodied shooter to the perimeter that could help fill the gap for a season and provide some veteran leadership off the bench. His role probably wouldn’t be very large and his contract expires after next season, adding to the Spurs’ pool of money in a loaded 2021 class.
Most importantly, the Spurs get a second lottery draft pick! New York was one of the big losers of the 2020 NBA Draft lottery, slipping down to No. 8 with the sixth-best odds in the draft. If New York is buying into a win-now mindset, they’re better off using that pick to invest in a star player like DeRozan instead of swinging at another rookie in the lottery.
New York is notorious for blundering draft picks, which is why trading is the safer option. Also, note that the players that Knicks Film Room has heard are involved in the offer are Julius Randle and Kevin Knox, which is why neither of those players was included in this hypothetical trade.
Next: The New York Knicks' outlook
The New York Knicks return to the playoffs.
Having the combination of DeRozan and Paul brings a fresh look to Madison Square Garden. Instead of forcing their poor fanbase to buy into their young players and wish for the best, they get to make the most of this current moment. I couldn’t think of two better veteran leaders to teach last year’s No. 3 pick, R.J. Barrett, than Paul and DeMar.
While Paul is an NBA legend with a wealth of basketball knowledge, DeRozan’s playstyle has a ton of overlap with Barrett’s. Furthermore, the Canadian up-and-comer spent plenty of time watching DeRozan’s game evolve in Toronto, partially inspiring his growth as a player.
To bring DeRozan in as a guide for Barrett is an investment in Barrett’s future, even if it forces him into a smaller role for the immediate future. Plus, Barrett would be an instant Sixth Man of the Year candidate after a year of forcing offense for a team that didn’t know what it was doing.
With this lineup, plus a few more smart decisions in the NBA Draft and free agency, the New York Knicks shouldn’t have a problem competing for a playoff spot. The No. 8 seed this past season, the Orlando Magic suffered a great setback with the injury to Jonathan Isaac. They’ve remained stagnant for the last two seasons and that playoff spot could easily be overtaken by an established, veteran group in New York.
Soon-to-be free agent Evan Fournier would be a decent fit with this duo. Shamed Knicks owner James Dolan is a detriment to his team, but he’d be willing to spend the money that he has to build a playoff contender. If Paul and DeRozan remain healthy, I’d easily pick them to earn one of the 2020 playoff spots in that Eastern Conference lineup.
Next: The San Antonio Spurs' outlook
The San Antonio Spurs buy into their future.
Losing DeRozan doesn’t enforce a tanking season by any means, but if certainly accelerates the timeline for them. When DeRozan gets moved, the focus is shifted toward the young guns with Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson potentially taking over as starters. Even if that’s not the case with Trey Lyles returning, that rotation would receive heavy minutes no matter what.
Plus, the Spurs get to assure a higher draft pick. Upon doing so, they can either move up for a higher pick or draft two players at No. 8 and No. 11. This would nearly ensure they can snag someone like Devin Vassell, a two-way menace from Florida State that Spurs fans have become enamored with during the season.
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Furthermore, it ensures that San Antonio’s future is up for the taking. If they want to pursue a star player to tie this team together in 2021, they can easily do so with tens of millions of dollars coming off the books after next season. This was the primary motivation for including Portis and Bullock in that deal — Not because they’re players who will be transformative for San Antonio. Although with no expectations and the first competent franchise of his career, Portis could hit another level in the River City.
Regardless, this is one of the Spurs’ few options regarding DeRozan that doesn’t leverage the team’s future. If they couldn’t get that No. 8 pick in the deal, they could restructure their offer and get the LA Clippers’ No. 27 pick, which the Knicks acquired at the trade deadline.
Moving DeRozan isn’t a necessity for San Antonio. The team could easily run it back with him and Aldridge at the helm next season to great success. However, it wouldn’t be making the most of their opportunity with a young core bursting at the seams with potential.
I hate to say it, but parting with DeRozan could be the Spurs’ best chance at improving their outlook for the future.