San Antonio Spurs: Preparing for another DeMar DeRozan All-Star snub

Feb 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the hottest debates among San Antonio Spurs fans right now is what the team should do with DeMar DeRozan. The 31-year-old DeRozan is in the final year of his contract with the Spurs and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Depending on your personal preferences for the future direction of this team, you can make a pretty compelling case for re-signing DeRozan or letting him walk. At the moment, all we can do is speculate on what might happen. Whenever they’ve been asked about the status of DeRozan’s future with the team, both the Spurs and DeMar have kicked the question down the road and said it’s something they’ll address when the time comes.

Regardless of how you feel about this future in San Antonio, I think we can all agree that DeMar has been outstanding for the Spurs this season. He’s tweaked his game to do more of what the team needs, is playing some of the most efficient basketball of his career, and is making that preseason ranking from ESPN look utterly foolish.

DeMar’s impressive season has the Spurs firmly in the playoff hunt but will it be enough to earn him his fifth career All-Star appearance? It should be. But the cold truth is that it probably won’t be.

DeMar deserves to represent the San Antonio Spurs as All-Star Game

It’s his 12th season in the NBA and DeMar just keeps improving. This year he’s taken steps forward as both a playmaker and scorer while still being the cold-blooded assassin that the Spurs need him to be in the fourth quarter.

For as long as he’s been in the league, DeMar has been known as a scorer. He’s a 20 point per game scorer for his career but he’s got no problem going out and getting you 30 or 40 if need be. We all knew about the scorer we were getting when the Spurs traded for DeRozan back in 2018, but I don’t think most of us saw him growing into the playmaking role he’s had over the past three seasons.

DeRozan was making an impact as a passer right away in San Antonio but he’s never been better than he is right now. On the season, he’s averaging 6.6 assists per game and assisting on an impressive 29.3 percent of the Spurs field goals while he’s on the floor, both career-high marks.

He’s doing this all while turning the ball over just 1.7 times per game, the lowest mark since his rookie year when his usage rate was just 18.1 percent, far lower than the 23.4 percent mark that he’s at today. The slight tweaks the Spurs made to their offense in the offseason have clearly helped DeMar play the cleanest basketball of his career.

San Antonio has been consistent in how they’ve broken down opponents’ defenses this season. They’ve cut out midrange shots and are playing faster than they did last year and they’re not being shy about letting their opponents know what’s coming.

Simply put, they’re going to pummel you with drives and kick-outs until something opens up. They make the fourth-most passes in the league on a per-game basis and rank second in drives. It’s not a particularly complicated attack but gosh dangit if it isn’t effective.

What we’ve seen from DeMar as a passer this season has been the result of a marriage between a continually improving passer and an offense designed to bring out the best of him in that area. He’s been phenomenal in this area of the game and probably doesn’t get enough credit for it if we’re being real.

As a scorer, DeRozan has been mostly what we’ve come to expect from him over the past three years, with a few slight adjustments. He’s still getting most of his points at the rim – 25 percent of his shots are coming within 3 feet of the basket compared to 27 percent last season – helping to lead to the second-highest field goal percentage of his career. Currently making 49 percent of his shots from the floor, DeRozan is just a hair short of the career-high 53 percent mark he set last season.

The changes have come further away from the basket where DeMar has, at long last, started shooting three’s. It’s not a lot, just 1.9 attempts per game at a 35 percent accuracy rate, but it’s enough to provide the smallest bit of extra spacing the team needs to be more effective.

DeRozan’s lethality as a scorer comes through most in the clutch. The best example of this has to be the Spurs’ most recent win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Down 11 heading into the fourth, DeRozan put the team on his back and scored 16 of his 30 points in the final quarter while also grabbing four rebounds and dealing out two assists.

Ultimately, that’s what DeRozan’s All-Star candidacy comes down to. He’s one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the league who also consistently elevates his game when it matters most.

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Not convinced? Here are the players who can match or exceed DeRozan’s current production of points, rebounds, and assists: Luka, Jokic, LeBron, Harden, and Westbrook. That’s it, that’s the last. Those guys are all probably going to be All-Stars, so what’s the difference with DeMar?

Frankly, he’s not popular enough to get in on fan voting alone. After the first returns, he’s not even among the top-ten guards. Players like CJ McCollum and Klay Thompson who aren’t even playing right now got more votes than DeRozan.

No, if DeRozan goes to his fifth All-Star game it’ll because the 30 NBA coaches think he belongs there. And as impressive as his individual numbers are, they might not be enough if the Spurs stumble and fall out of playoff contention.

Right now, DeRozan is in the Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray set of guards who could make the All-Star team but shouldn’t be considered locks. The easiest way for DeMar to edge those guys out is by helping his team win games and maintain or improve on their position in the Western Conference standings.

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As strong as DeMar DeRozan’s All-Star case is this year, it was similarly strong last year and the year before that. And he still didn’t make it. So forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen this year. The easiest way for DeRozan to make it to All-Star weekend is to keep leading the San Antonio Spurs to wins. Keep doing that and the rest will figure itself out.