To Trade or Not to Trade DeMar DeRozan

According to a report by The Athletic’s Sam Amick, the San Antonio Spurs are exploring the trade market for DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is in the midst of an increasingly strong season — and a particularly hot stretch. While the timing might seem odd given his recent play, exploring the trade market now — with the trade deadline looming — is ultimately the right move.

San Antonio will have until the Feb. 6 deadline to explore their options and decide how to proceed with DeRozan. Trading him likely means that the Spurs have come to a realization that making the playoffs is either a long-shot or that making the playoffs this season is not important when planning the franchise’s long-term outlook.

With the Memphis Grizzlies surging and San Antonio’s own wildly inconsistent play, that scenario isn’t out of the question — especially if the eighth seed gets further out of reach. Were the Spurs to decide to move DeRozan, Miami and Orlando could be possible trade partners, as the two Florida teams have been rumored to have interest in him.

DeMar DeRozan to the Miami Heat?

San Antonio reportedly expects Miami to have interest, however the Spurs also expect more than just expiring contracts in return. Miami doesn’t have any first round picks available to trade in the near future — but they do have interesting young players.

Without picks available, the Spurs would have to choose from Miami’s existing pool of young players. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr. and Kendrick Nunn all fit the bill as young talent, but it’s unclear which may interest the Spurs and which the Heat are willing to part with.

DeMar DeRozan to the Orlando Magic?

Orlando has Aaron Gordon and first rounders available to trade, making them a more ideal trade partner. The Magic are in desperate need of a perimeter player who can create for himself and others like DeRozan can. San Antonio would possibly be interested in Gordon given his untapped potential. The Spurs would also probably ask for a first rounder from the Magic as well, which would likely land in the teens.

A deal involving Gordon and Orlando’s 2020 first for DeRozan and Marco Belinelli would be the ideal framework for a trade from San Antonio’s perspective. Any one of Al-Farouq Aminu, Terrence Ross or DJ Augustin would have to be included to match salary. Given his expiring contract, Augustin would be the best candidate to be included in a possible trade.

DeRozan’s $27.7 million player-option for next season could come into play, however. He and his agent could nix a deal by threatening to opt out after the season.

It’s doubtful that Orlando would be willing to give up much unless they knew that he was willing to stay. The Magic would have his Bird rights and may be the only team interested in signing him to a long term-deal. That said, it would still be risky on the part of the Magic.

Why An Extension Might Make Sense

The Spurs could still opt to extend DeRozan, guaranteeing that he’d stick around past this season. A three-year extension for approximately $80 million is a big commitment but DeRozan’s play as of late has warranted it. Averaging 22.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 60.6% true shooting (well above league average) this season, he has played at an All-Star level.

For DeRozan, with an extension he’d be able to earn more than he might otherwise make in free agency. DeRozan would need to opt-in to his 2020-21 player option as a part of the extension. Two additional seasons would be added to his deal at similar salary.

With the salary cap projected for $116 million next season, DeRozan’s salary would only account for 23.8% of the cap. The cap projects to jump to $125 million for the 2021-22 season, with DeRozan accounting for about 22.4% of the cap.

Considering the max for a player of his experience is 35% of the cap, retaining DeRozan for around $27 million a season would be a bargain. Also, extending him wouldn’t end the idea of trading him, although the Spurs would have to wait six months from the date of the extension to do so.

The Future of DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs

The decision to trade DeRozan before the trade deadline would be a monumental one. Doing so would likely mark the beginning of a tear-down and the end of their historic playoff streak. On the other hand, keeping him would signal that the Spurs intend to compete for the final playoff spot in the West.

DeRozan could leave in free agency, also causing a potential rebuild. It’s more likely that he’ll opt in, however, given that the teams with significant cap space are already rebuilding and probably won’t be interested in a player like him due to his age and unique skill-set. Were he to pick up his player-option, the Spurs could look largely the same next season minus a few rotation players.

San Antonio could decide to extend him after the season but before the start of free agency. In doing so, DeRozan’s deal would extend beyond next season when LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay all become free agents. If San Antonio intends to keep him going forward, then it hints that the team doesn’t plan on going through a complete tear-down at any point.

Although the Spurs have a chance to extend their playoff streak, planning on remaining competitive could affect the ceiling of the post-2022 Spurs. Without a high pick, they’d need one of their prospects to become a star or lure one away from another team.

The are a several scenarios involving DeRozan that are in play. The road the Spurs decide to travel will set the tone for the future of the franchise.