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DeMar DeRozan is playing like a superstar, but that doesn’t mean he is one

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DeRozan has been producing like an MVP candidate lately, but should the Spurs treat him as one and make him their centerpiece?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at San Antonio Spurs Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

Since LaMarcus Aldridge started shooting threes, DeMar DeRozan has been Giannis-lite. Is this superstar version of DeRozan sustainable and the type of centerpiece the Spurs should plan around?

Marilyn Dubinski: As long as the Spurs can keep four shooters around him it’s relatively sustainable, but if they truly decide to build around him after this season, they’ll need to revamp their roster to fit this current four-out style better. My main concern with keeping him long term is you would eventually want to move him back to his proper position of shooting guard since he can’t guard forwards, but then that eats into the playing/development time of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Keldon Johnson, none of whom are of the proper build to be a full time small forward. It leaves me torn. I love DeMar and want him to succeed, but what is the ceiling when building around him? Probably not championship caliber, IMO. There will be tough questions about this down the line, but for now I’m just enjoying the moment.

Mark Barrington: I think it’s probably regular-season sustainable when teams aren’t specifically game-planning to stop him, but once the playoffs begin* opponents are going to be more locked-in and focused on limiting his impact. Still, if he’s changing the shape of the defense it should open up other opportunities, and I think Pop might be smart enough to adapt and take advantage.

Being Giannis-lite isn’t the answer to everything, given that the Bucks, who had Giannis-actual, were stopped in the conference finals last year by a strategy specifically aimed at stifling the Greek Freak’s primary skill, driving to the hoop. This year, Giannis is working to diversify his game, which makes it harder to shut him down by taking away one thing. I don’t know if DeMar is capable of that at this point in his career, but he’s been increasing his range a little lately. If the Spurs are going to have any success in the playoffs this year (see note below), he’s going to have do more of that. I’m interested to see what he can do with the rest of the season, which should have a big impact on whether he will be a part of the Spurs’ long term plans.

* Assuming the Spurs make the playoffs this year, which I’m not convinced yet that they will, or even should.

Bruno Passos: He’s not going to keep shooting in the mid-60s from the field like he has been, but it’s a far better formula than what they had going previously, working like an inverted big-small inside-out duo. Is it sustainable for the rest of the season? I think so. Should it change the way the team views DeRozan’s next contract situation? As much as I appreciate his niche game and the guy off the court, he doesn’t make for an ideal foundation given the current, guard-heavy shape of the youth movement and the still-glaring deficiencies on the defensive end.

Jesus Gomez: No and no. DeRozan is an amazing offensive talent who can get hot for stretches, especially when he has the ball in his hands and enough spacing around him. He absolutely can average 25+ on a decent field goal percentage — in fact he did just that in Toronto. But what we’ve been seeing lately is clearly impossible to sustain, since he’s been shooting over 60 from the field and almost 90 percent from the free throw line while averaging over two assists to one turnover per game. Even with more shooting around him DeMar will eventually come back to earth on offense, which is fine. He can still be immensely helpful on that end while posting less-insane numbers. The 2019/20 Spurs will definitely benefit from having him around.

The problem is that no matter what any team does, DeRozan will always be a good but not elite playmaker who can’t play off the ball and is decidedly a below average defender, especially at the small forward spot. He’s an incredibly tough player to build around. For now the Spurs should absolutely try to maximize his impact, but this amazing run hopefully won’t make the front office forget how challenging it has historically been to put a contending team around DeRozan when he’s not playing out of his mind.

J.R. Wilco: I’ve been hard on DeRozan in the past, so I’ll start by saying that I’m glad he’s playing phenomenally. It’s good for him and it’s good for the team. Raising the level of his game within the team concept has shown guts, and the ability to keep pounding the rock when things looked particularly gloomy, and that’s the making of a true Spur.

But I have serious concerns about DmDr in San Antonio beyond this season. At its best, his defense is regular-season-passable but playoffs-suspect. His decision making is shaky, especially late in games, and his clutchness (insofar as such a thing is measurable) leaves much to be desired. These are things that are must-haves in a player that I’d lobby the Spurs to build around, so as excited as I am for the current prospects of the team turning its season around, I still wouldn’t like PATFO to hitch themselves to DeMar long term.