San Antonio Spurs: Zach Lowe paints grim picture of Spurs post-DeRozan

Apr 9, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) warms up before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) warms up before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The biggest question facing the San Antonio Spurs this summer -and lingering over them every day until then – is what the future holds for the Spurs and their star wing, DeMar DeRozan.

DeMar has been outstanding for San Antonio this season. He’s playing some of the most efficient basketball of his career, dishing out assists at a level we’ve never seen him do, and fulfilling his role as the Spurs closer in tough moments.

That’s all well and good, but what does it mean for his future in San Antonio? Just because DeMar and the Spurs have been able to make things work this year doesn’t mean that he’ll be interested in continuing the relationship moving forward.

Keep in mind, DeMar didn’t choose to come to San Antonio, and at 31-years-old, this may be his best and last chance to sign a near-max deal in a location of his choosing.

DeRozan is taking an open-minded approach to free agency, meaning that Spurs fans should become very comfortable with the possibility of him not returning. If that comes to be the case, things could get ugly in San Antonio.

Zach Lowe paints a bleak picture of San Antonio Spurs without DeMar DeRozan

If DeMar does decide to take his talents elsewhere, the Spurs should be able to manage his absence., at least on the defensive end of the floor. It’s on offense where things could get ugly. On a recent episode of his podcast The Lowe Post, Zach Lowe painted a grim future of what the Spurs offense could look like without DeMar running the show.

“There’s okay playmaking in there but I don’t know if there is a super-plus playmaker in there but all those guys are so young it’s hard to know. I just don’t know what that offense looks like without DeRozan except I can picture a lot of teams going under screens and the ball sort of moving East – West – East – West – East – West without a lot getting done until someone takes a mid-range jumper.”

I both agree and disagree with Lowe here. There’s no debating that the Spurs’ offense is better with DeMar in it. The Spurs score 112.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, that figure drops to 103.8 when he sits. Losing him would certainly hurt, but it’s not something that the Spurs would be unable to overcome. At least in theory.

There might not be a “super-plus playmaker” amongst the Spurs young guard group of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker but the three have all improved since joining the team, especially Murray and Walker.

Murray, in particular, has come into his own as a true point guard there, and given how he has progressed throughout his career it’s reasonable to believe that he will continue to improve in that regard. Will he become a “super-plus playmaker”? Maybe not, but how many point guards truly fall into that category?

Where I disagree with Lowe is in his description of what the Spurs’ offense would look like. The ball isn’t going to swing aimlessly back and forth without direction. This team has thrived on driving and kicking the ball out all season long. There’s little reason to think that would change without DeRozan.

This season, the Spurs have averaged 54.7 drives per game, the second-highest figure in the league. The problem has been that there aren’t many shooters to kick it out too. Devin Vassell has shown immense promise as a three-point threat, as has Lonnie Walker. But those two have been plagued by injuries or a simple lack of playing time.

Patty Mills has been consistent and will likely come back on a team-friendly deal. Luka Samanic has also shown flashes of being the floor spacing threat we’d hope he’d become when the Spurs drafted him last year.

There’s a lot to like about the Spurs young core. Together they’re one of the brighter young groups in the league but they’re still so far from being a fully formed team that it’s really hard to judge what they’re going to be. And while it could be possible that DeRozan’s departure could be the catalyst that sparks their development they could also struggle without his playmaking and clutch scoring.

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Eventually, the San Antonio Spurs front office is going to have to embrace what they have in this young group but is this summer the time to do it? Or will they try to bring DeMar DeRozan back on a two or three-year deal to give themselves a bit more runway to see what this young core can become? Only time will tell.