DeMar DeRozan is a perennial All-NBA star, and pushed the San Antonio Spurs to the postseason in his first season with the team. But when it comes to extending him long-term, should the Spurs pull the trigger, or consider a trade?
It’s difficult to decipher whether the dominant storyline of the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals came within the back-to-back bruises to the already rocky Finals legacy of LeBron James, or Kevin Durant‘s forced insertion into the “clear-cut best player in the world” conversation.
In either case, the series allowed creative freedom for the “best player in basketball” debate to be taken more seriously. In one corner, Kevin Durant had just become just the sixth player to win back-to-back Finals MVPs. In the other corner, sat LeBron James — the longtime consensus best in the world — coming off the second-highest scoring postseason in basketball history.
Yet, in the summer heading into the upcoming season, all of the unwritten rules of a “best player in basketball” coronation were broken when Masai Ujiri referred to Kawhi Leonard as the undisputed premier player among the 664 players to suit up in 2017-18. Where most best players in the world see their teams struggle in their absence, Leonard watched as the San Antonio Spurs come a win away from home-court advantage in the Western Conference.
Where most players worthy of a title to that degree have an All-Star or All-NBA distinction to their name, Leonard had played in only nine games — and produced his lowest individual impact since his rookie season ,according to Player Impact Plus-Minus (PIPM) — before being shipped to Toronto for All-NBA Second Teamer DeMar DeRozan.
With evidence in the 2017-18 season, many assumed that filling Leonard’s nonexistent gap with a perennial All-Star would be enough to help the Spurs return to contention. But after a telling season in which DeRozan failed to measure up — analytically, at least — the Spurs might be wise to ponder their future, and consider if it’s worth it to have DeRozan as a part of it.
The obvious drawback to giving up on the DeRozan experiment after a season or two would be that it means management never allowed the team to show itself at full strength. Bearing that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of a potential extension.