The odds of the NBA finishing the full remainder of its 2019/20 regular season are essentially zero, which means the chances of the Spurs overcoming a four-game deficit in the standings and extending their playoff streak to 23 consecutive years are on life support as well. Even if the NBA is able to hold a postseason in 2020, San Antonio almost certainly won’t be a part of it, so the team may feel more pressure than usual to shake things up in the offseason.
One key storyline to watch after the season ends will be DeMar DeRozan‘s future. He holds a $27.7MM player option for the 2020/21 campaign, and with little league-wide cap room available, his best bet may be simply to pick it up. As John Hollinger of The Athletic wrote this week, the veteran guard would have a better shot at a big payday in the summer of 2021.
It’s not clear whether DeRozan is leaning in that direction though. A March 11 report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested the Spurs’ leading scorer plans to opt out of his contract in the offseason if he and the team don’t agree to a contract extension. The timing of that report is important though — it surfaced mere hours before news of Rudy Gobert‘s positive coronavirus test broke and the NBA landscape was thrown into disarray.
Given all the revenue the NBA projects to lose as a result of its stoppage – and given how that lost revenue may impact the salary cap – it would make sense if DeRozan re-evaluates his position and decides that opting in and securing a $27.7MM guarantee is the right move for next season.
There are other factors in play here though. For one, we don’t know for sure how much DeRozan actually likes playing in San Antonio. During a March radio appearance on ESPN San Antonio (audio link), Jabari Young of CNBC – who previously covered the Spurs for the San Antonio Express-News and The Athletic – asserted that the 30-year-old wasn’t thrilled with his current situation.
“I don’t have to sugarcoat anything: DeMar DeRozan is not happy in San Antonio,” Young said, per Jeff Garcia of Spurs Zone. “The offense is not running as smoothly as one should think with a guy like him in the lineup. There are problems there. You have to decide if you’re going to take that money (and) come back to a situation that’s just not suitable.”
As Garcia observes, shortly after that ESPN San Antonio segment, DeRozan tweeted, “Who comes up with this s–t?” in an apparent reference to Young’s comments. Young followed up by publishing a long Twitter thread in which he highlighted his previous Spurs-related scoops and stood by his reporting.
Even if Young is right that DeRozan isn’t happy in San Antonio, the extent of that unhappiness is unclear — being frustrated with this season’s results and wanting out as soon as possible are two very different things. If DeRozan’s stance is closer to the former than the latter, he won’t be looking for an escape hatch at any cost in the offseason.
While DeRozan’s player option will give him a degree of power over whether or not he continues his career with the Spurs, the team could have a significant say too. San Antonio has typically been open to extensions for its veteran players in recent years and could go down a similar path with DeRozan, who is coming off one of the most efficient and productive offensive seasons of his career.
However, despite his impressive scoring and play-making, DeRozan remains a below-average defender. The Spurs’ 113.9 defensive rating with DeRozan on the court this season was noticeably worse than the team’s 106.7 mark when he sat. Overall, the Spurs had a negative net rating in DeRozan’s minutes and a positive rating while he was on the bench. Even if he opts in for 2020/21, perhaps San Antonio decides to make him available on the trade market in the hopes of retooling its roster and going a little younger.
What do you think? What does the future hold for DeRozan and the Spurs? Should either side be pursuing an extension? Will DeRozan pick up his player option for 2020/21? If he does, should San Antonio shop him? If he doesn’t, which teams could be fits in free agency?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!