DeMar DeRozan: Looking at Spurs’ Future With and Without Him

The San Antonio Spurs and DeMar DeRozan are far apart on a contract extension, putting his future with the team in doubt. DeRozan reportedly wants a long-term deal, while the Spurs reportedly want to retain him on a short-term deal. DeRozan can opt out of the final year of his contract — a $27.7 million player option — and become a free agent after this season.

If DeMar DeRozan Were To Opt In

DeMar DeRozan electing to stay in San Antonio would ensure that the Spurs stay in playoff contention for another season. Competing for the playoffs while slowly transitioning away from veterans and toward a youth movement would be the goal for this franchise. In addition to DeRozan’s decision, next summer the Spurs will need to re-sign Bryn Forbes and Jakob Poeltl, while Derek White will be eligible for a contract extension.

Locking up all three of those young players on long-term deals, in addition to the recently extended Dejounte Murray, would help the Spurs ahead of the summer of 2021. Having several key players already under contract would give San Antonio a better idea of where they stand cap-wise. That’s important because the Spurs could potentially have a significant amount of cap space in 2021, as the contracts of DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills all expire that summer.

Next season, if DeRozan opts to pick up his player option, I would expect that there would be minimal change in regards to the rotations and to the overall roster. DeRozan returning would likely prevent White from starting alongside Murray, as Bryn Forbes’ shooting would be needed to spread the floor. Aldridge, Mills and Gay would likely have similar roles, albeit with a likely decrease in minutes due to their mileage.

Continuing that scenario, White and Poeltl could see increased minutes, while Belinelli likely won’t be re-signed due to his age and declining skills. Lonnie Walker IV will be entering his third year and needing minutes, so he could fill the void left by Belinelli.

The Trey Lyles and DeMarre Carroll rotation situation should be resolved by then. End-of-roster players such as Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson could enter the back of the rotation or continue developing in Austin, depending on how they progress. Two-way players Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks would be in the same boat, while Chimezie Metu may or may not be on the roster depending on how he performs this season.

If DeMar DeRozan Were To Opt Out

There are teams with cap space that could offer DeMar DeRozan the deal that he’s seeking, though none are obvious fits. If DeRozan leaves, the backcourt of Murray and White could be paired together in the starting lineup, as the spacing issues would likely leave with DeRozan.

As for who would replace DeRozan, the Spurs could look to replace him internally with a combination of Walker and Carroll, with Gay also an option in the right matchups. Alternatively, the Spurs could look to acquire, through free agency or trade, a small forward who can shoot the ball and play adequate defense. Getting a shooter to replace DeRozan would make the pieces of this roster fit much better together.

With a shooter in place of DeRozan, White could be elevated to the starting lineup and Forbes could transition to a bench role. If Lyles pans out, he would continue to make sense starting next to Aldridge going forward. But if he doesn’t pan out and the Spurs still want a stretch forward, going small with Carroll at the four is an option. If DeRozan’s replacement, White and Murray provide enough shooting, even Poeltl as a starter becomes a possibility once again.

In the short-term, the Spurs would likely have a lower floor without DeRozan. His presence and the load he can carry makes the Spurs a playoff contender. Without him, it could be a rough season. However, DeRozan’s departure could also hasten the youth movement the Spurs are heading toward regardless of what he decides to do next summer.

How This Will All Play Out

Currently averaging 20.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists, it would be difficult to replace DeMar DeRozan’s production. His aggressive drives to the rim have been particularly helpful, as he’s leading the team in free throws attempted while also shooting 69.0% at the rim. Despite that, he’s hard very to build around due to his struggles on defense and nonexistent three-point shooting.

DeRozan, 30, wanting a long-term deal is something players his age often desire. He could very well view it as his last chance to cash in and, thus, decide to become a free agent next summer to try and secure a new long-term deal.

San Antonio, on the other hand, is right to want DeRozan back only if he agrees to a short-term extension or decides to opt in. He’s too difficult to build around, especially given the young pieces on this team, so the Spurs should continue to refuse to budge in their negotiations. If DeRozan agrees to a short-term extension or simply takes his player option, that’s a win for the Spurs.