How valuable is Demar DeRozan to the Spurs?
Writer: Jameson White
This past summer, San Antonio tried to convince disgruntled superstar, Kawhi Leonard, that he should stay with the only NBA franchise he’s ever suited up for. However, as great as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is, the relationship was obviously too far gone. While they shopped around the league for a potential suitor, they were able to get an all-star player, DeMar DeRozan, in return. While this was seen by many to be a one-sided trade that involved trading away a top-five, transcendent-level defensive talent in Leonard, the Spurs risked losing him for nothing when he becomes a free-agent in 2019; considering the circumstances, a haul of DeRozan, a raw, high-ceiling center in Jakob Poeltl, and a conditional first round pick was about all a team can ask for. However, contrary to popular belief, DeMar DeRozan can end up being the best player in this deal.
He is a star who is 29 years old. He is right in the middle of his prime career, and his last three seasons were the highest-scoring outings of his career; unless you count positionless Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo as a shooting guard, he has been the best two-guard in the Eastern conference for the last few seasons. Although they are not some of the best shots possible, DeRozan is an artist inside the three-point line, making contested mid-range jumpers at an efficient level. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Spurs have an elite shooting coach in Chip Engelland who can make DeRozan at minimum an average three-point shooter; he was able to mold Kawhi into a deep-range deadeye, as well as improving Dejounte Murray’s jumpshot significantly.
Demar is also a good facilitator of the basketball, and in a system like San Antonio’s that involves a lot of ball movement, he can only get better. With Dejounte Murray’s recent ACL tear, DeRozan should also get more opportunities to be the primary ball-handler for the Spurs’ offense. While he has always been known as an average (at best) defender, the Spurs always seem to have a strong defense. Considering how DeRozan’s defensive liabilities are more due to mental lapses than physical inabilities, there is a good chance that he shows quite a large step of growth on the less glamorous side of the court.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the most feared players in the NBA. He went from being a one-dimensional defensive player coming into the league to a wing who can also shoot from anywhere on the court. However, the injuries might be starting to add up for Leonard. Considering he’s had injuries to his eye, hand, shoulder, ankle, and now the quadriceps, it can severely hinder his ability to perform.
DeRozan has one of the greatest coaches of all time roaming his sideline. Year after year, Gregg Popovich is able to get the best out of each of his players, taking players to levels they never expected to play at. DeRozan is highly motivated by the fact that he was “betrayed,” in a sense, by the Raptors, the only team he has ever played for. Leonard got his wish to be traded from the Spurs, only to be sent out of the country. Considering what DeRozan has going in his favor, San Antonio is going to have an outstanding talent suiting up for them; one that makes it the best acquisition in the blockbuster summer trade.