DeMar DeRozan has been a great leader and a consummate professional during his three-year tenure with the Spurs, but it’s clear that the time has come for both sides to move on. The former All-Star is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and should have plenty of interested teams knocking on his door — as long as his desired contract is palatable, of course.
The most likely scenario is that DeRozan signs with a team that has loads of cap space, but there’s also a chance that the Spurs could facilitate a sign-and-trade and receive a few assets in return. This would allow him to play for a preferable club (that’s capped out) while also ensuring that San Antonio wouldn’t be letting him walk for nothing.
With that in mind, here’s a look at four potential landing spots for DeRozan this offseason.
New York is always a popular destination for stars to flock to in free agency, as was evident when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined forces to play for... oh right, the Nets.
No, the Knicks haven’t had much success with signing free agents recently, but there’s a chance that the tide is shifting after they shocked the league and finished as the fourth seed in the East this season. New York has less than $58 million in salary committed next year and doesn’t have any crucial pieces to re-sign. The team has been desperate to land someone, ANYONE, in free agency over the past few seasons, and although DeRozan isn’t quite the marquee name they’re usually after, he would still count as something.
The Knicks have also been rumored to be interested in signing Kyle Lowry, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if DeRozan would like to reunite with his former backcourt partner. New York certainly has the cap space to acquire both, and a core comprising of Lowry, DeRozan, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett definitely has the potential to make some noise in the East.
If DeRozan wants to stay in Texas but play for a better team, then Dallas could be a fit. The Mavericks will have enough cap space to sign him if they decide to let Tim Hardaway Jr. walk without sacrificing any other pieces.
However, questions will undoubtedly arise in regards to how DeRozan will mesh alongside Luka Doncic. Dallas has been desperate to find a secondary ballhandler/playmaker to pair with their wunderkind, and DeRozan can certainly provide them with some much needed offensive creation.
On the other hand, the Mavericks will likely want someone who can also space the floor and play good defense, which is exactly the opposite of DeRozan’s skillset. Doncic’s game is most reminiscent of James Harden, and the latter thrived with 3-and-D role players during his time in Houston.
However, Dallas probably doesn’t have the luxury to get picky with their options, especially since rumors of Doncic’s discontent have already begun to swirl around the team. DeRozan might not be the perfect fit for them, but he’d still be a worthwhile investment if it means keeping their star satisfied... for now.
Los Angeles Clippers (sign-and-trade)
We’ve finally arrived at the juicy stuff! Both the Clippers and Lakers have been rumored to want DeRozan, and the interest is likely mutual given that he grew up in Compton.
Before diving into more details, some groundwork for sign-and-trades needs to be laid out. First, any deal requires salary matching given that both the LA teams are over the cap, which severely limits their options. DeRozan also needs to be signed for at least three seasons, and the Spurs can’t attach more players to expand the trade. Finally, a sign-and-trade will trigger the hard cap for the acquiring team (projected to be $142 million for the upcoming season), so they’ll need to be certain that they can construct an adequate roster without exceeding that threshold.
With those parameters in place, the Clippers can only offer some combination of Patrick Beverley ($14.3 million), Luke Kennard ($12.7 million), and Ivica Zubac ($7.5 million), depending on how much DeRozan signs for. Some future picks could also be attached; LA has their first-round pick this year but doesn’t have another until 2027, although they do have all their second-rounders plus a few of Detroit’s.
In my opinion, the best case scenario would be a package of Beverley, Zubac, and a couple of picks, which is only feasible if DeRozan is willing to sign for a bit over $20 million per season. That might not seem like a very attractive deal, but sign-and-trades are about extracting value from departing players, so getting any asset in return is a win. Beverley can then be flipped at the deadline for more pieces, and Zubac is a solid starting center who would be an upgrade over Jakob Poeltl.
This hypothetical certainly isn’t likely, but given Kawhi Leonard’s partial ACL tear, the Clippers will be desperately searching for another shot creator to help Paul George. Plus, wouldn’t it be ironic to see both Leonard and DeRozan on the same team?
Los Angeles Lakers (sign and trade)
The Lakers have a more enticing package to offer San Antonio in a deal, although the chances of it actually happening is still low given that they’ll be hard-capped.
One idea that’s been brought up centers around DeRozan being dealt for Kyle Kuzma ($13 million), Montrezl Harrell ($9.7 million player option), and their 22nd pick this year. To me, that sounds almost too good to be true, although it checks the boxes in terms of salary matching.
Gregg Popovich has long been a fan of Kuzma and could revitalize his career after somewhat of a down season. Harrell can also be flipped at the trade deadline for future assets, but the 22nd pick could be the crown jewel of this deal. The 2021 draft is projected to be quite deep, and the Spurs might be able to nab a good player at that spot or even move up in the draft by packaging both of their picks.
However, in order to facilitate this deal, the Lakers will need to let go of some of their own free agents such as Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, and Talen Horton-Tucker. The Lakers will become even more top-heavy, and DeRozan’s fit won’t be a seamless one either. Similar to Dallas, LA is looking for more three-point shooters, but they also need perimeter shot creators who can take some of the offensive load off of LeBron James.
Ultimately, this deal hinges on how desperate the Lakers will be to improve their roster, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see them inquire about DeRozan to help maximize the twilight years of LeBron’s career.