It’s difficult to imagine what the last few months have been like for DeMar DeRozan. In the summer of 2018, he was blindsided by the trade that sent him to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, claiming he’d been given assurances from Raptors brass, specifically Masai Ujiri, that he would not be moved.
His best friend, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, was also devastated. The only difference is, Lowry has a much bigger and shinier consolation prize to help him sleep at night. DeRozan, meanwhile, was forced to look on as his former team — which opted to go with someone other than him as its No. 1 option — toppled the Warriors dynasty and earned their first championship in franchise history, a goal that had eluded him his entire tenure in Toronto.
DeRozan handled the win as gracefully as someone could, saying that he was happy for his former squad’s success even if “we all feel some type of way, when you see a previous situation you were a part of accomplishing something great that you were after when you were there.” But while Toronto marched to a title, DeRozan, in certain measurable ways, had one of his more productive years. DeRozan hit 48 percent of his field goal attempts (the best mark of his career, rookie season aside) and basically never attempted threes while logging more rebounds and assists than ever before.
In fact, his 21.2 points, 6.2 assists, and six rebounds make him the only Spur ever to average at least 20-5-5 for a season. That’s a remarkable accomplishment given the team’s legacy and the personnel who have been part of their illustrious tradition. For better or worse, DeRozan, along with LaMarcus Aldridge, now represent the new wave in San Antonio, as evidenced by the latter’s previous contract extension and the current discussions reportedly in the works for DeRozan to stick around long-term.
DeRozan has a $27.7 million player option for the 2020-2021 season and the Spurs have until next summer to extend him. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the two sides are engaged in talks, but it doesn’t appear we’ll see an agreement in the immediate future. There are plenty of reasons why the Spurs might drag their feet — DeRozan just turned 30, and though San Antonio has always been apprehensive about a full-scale rebuild, their backcourt has something of a youth movement in the works with the unexpected emergence of Derrick White and the impending returns of Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker from injury.
It’s also pragmatic for the Spurs to slow play this. Waiting another year would also give them the opportunity to see exactly how good they can be with DeRozan, now with a full season in the Spurs’ system under his belt, as their primary option and whether they’d be better off moving in another direction for the long-term.
Without question, the Spurs are keenly aware that it’s an imperfect fit. On paper, neither Aldridge nor DeRozan quite match the Spurs’ ideological approach. Both are high-volume, mid-range impresarios prone to stalling out the offense, neither of whom are capable of invoking much fear on the other end of the floor.