Spurs Q&A: DeMar DeRozan Opts In, But What’s His Future with San Antonio?

DeMar DeRozan didn’t surprise anyone today when he decided to opt into his player-option for the 2020-21 NBA season to remain with the San Antonio Spurs. By doing so, the 31-year-old will make $27.7 million and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. In his second season with the Spurs, DeRozan averaged 22.1 points, 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds, while shooting a career-high 53.1% from the field.

Was there ever a chance that DeMar DeRozan would opt out and decline his player-option?

It was always unlikely. There was talk last season that DeRozan would opt out if the Spurs didn’t give him a contract extension. However, whatever leverage he had evaporated when the pandemic suspended play. In this post-pandemic market in which NBA teams don’t have much money to spend on free agents, DeRozan was looking at a large cut in pay if he were to decline his player-option.

Could the Spurs still trade DeRozan?

Yes. Rumors have circulated in recent weeks that DeRozan could be traded and this news doesn’t change that. If another team wants him enough to give the Spurs something of value back in trade, San Antonio will undoubtedly listen to the offer.

What type of package could San Antonio get in return?

I don’t think the Spurs would hold out for a massive haul. My guess is that a first round pick attached to an expiring contract would be very tempting. Alternatively, if the Spurs can use DeRozan to move up in the draft without being forced to take back an unsightly contract, that’s a scenario they would have to consider.

Could the Spurs trade DeRozan prior to — or during — the draft?

Yes. In fact, if the Spurs are ever going to trade him, this would be one of the likeliest times they would do so. If the draft comes and goes and DeRozan is still in San Antonio, it doesn’t shut the door on trading him but it’d undeniably be more difficult. The next two drafts are expected to be much better than this draft so finding a team willing to give a future first round pick for DeRozan could prove to be very difficult. 

Are there scenarios in which he’s not traded for a draft pick?

Sure. If there comes a time when the Spurs view DeRozan as a liability, they could simply dump him for a matching contract that will also expire at the end of the season. There’s also a chance that a contending team offers a package with an interesting young player who San Antonio believes they would be able to develop. That said, all of the most likely scenarios involve DeRozan being traded for draft capital. 

Well, shouldn’t the Spurs already view DeRozan as a liability? There’s no proof that he makes the team better.

I don’t think he’s a liability to the point that the Spurs should salary dump him or settle for a trade that will bring back a negligible return. In the bubble, DeRozan meshed well with the youngsters and wasn’t a total disaster on defense despite spending the majority of his time at power forward. He is still easily the best playmaker on the roster and I don’t think his presence would negatively impact the up-and-comers, especially due to the aforementioned fact that held up decently well at power forward.

If the Spurs don’t trade him, is there any chance they sign him next summer to a new contract?

I doubt it. If the Spurs would have extended their playoff streak, that might have kept the door ajar for DeRozan to remain in San Antonio. But now that the streak is over, it looks like the Spurs are prepared to undergo the rebuilding process that they’ve been able to avoid for more than two decades. With the Spurs focusing on their youth in the bubble and the chatter this offseason that all their veterans are on the trading block, there are not-so-subtle signs pointing to San Antonio being ready to rebuild.

But then if the Spurs won’t re-sign DeRozan, why not trade him for whatever you can get? It’d be poor asset management to let him just walk in free agency next summer.

I think the Spurs are definitely open to trading him. But, again, I think they’ll need something tangible in return. Trading him for the sake of trading him doesn’t make sense until the point comes that he’s a liability — and I don’t think the Spurs view him as such at this point in time. DeRozan helping the young players carry the load for another season has some value. Thus, it’d be better to let him play out the season and let him walk next summer than to just trade him now without getting anything of value in return.