Demar DeRozan has expressed his disappointment in the Toronto Raptors front office over the last week when he was shipped off to San Antonio as part of the Kawhi Leonard blockbuster. I do not blame the guy. DeRozan made a long-term commitment to a city that has had trouble throughout their franchise’s history to retain star players including Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Chris Bosh. DeRozan signed a 5-year $137.5 million contract with the Raptors in 2016 without weighing other options. He was loyal to Toronto.
DeRozan has been named to the last three Eastern Conference All-Star teams, starting in the previous two, and earned All-NBA honors in the 2016-2017 (3rd Team) and 2017-2018 (2nd Team). DeRozan was the lone 2-guard dominating the Eastern Conference the last 3 years, with Dwyane Wade dropping off considerably. Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo made significant jumps this past season and look to seize that top 2-guard spot in the East. Unlike the East though, the West has an abundance of guard talent that makes me wonder if DeRozan even makes the All-Star team next season.
Here is a list of the top guards in the Western Conference as of today:
Last year, only six guards from the Western Conference were selected to participate in the prestigious game in Los Angeles. The first six on the list were All-Stars with McCollum, Booker and Mitchell having the ability to legitimately contend for spots this season. You can usually count on a surprising performance each season, which could include a comeback from Isaiah Thomas, a breakout season from one of the young Denver guards (Jamal Murray or Gary Harris), or maybe Lonzo Ball flourishes in his role next to LeBron James. Regardless if any one of those situations plays out, there is a surplus of guard talent stacked up in the West that DeRozan did not see in his first 9 seasons in the East with Toronto.
The Spurs, which are not usually an organization to have a lot of turnover season to season, are going through some major roster changes. The Spurs brought in DeRozan as part of a trade that sent their franchise forward, Leonard, and another reliable veteran in Danny Green to the Raptors. Tony Parker, who spent his entire 17-year career with the Spurs, decided to take his talents to the Charlotte Hornets on a two-year contract. The team also lost restricted free agent Kyle Anderson when they decided not to match a four-year $37.5 million-dollar deal with the Memphis Grizzles. The Spurs are not going to look like the Spurs of the past this coming season.
On the reverse side, general manager RC Buford was able to add Demar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl in the Kawhi trade, sign Marco Belinelli away from the Sixers, sign rookie guard Lonnie Walker, and will have a full healthy season of Rudy Gay who is a year removed from an Achilles injury. This core has the potential to earn a top four seed in the loaded Western Conference. After all, the Spurs did make the playoffs last season without the services of Kawhi Leonard.
Accounting for all the players that departed Spurs this year, there is around 25 points per game to make up for. Belinelli will most likely take the Danny Green role, and rookie Lonnie Walker will back up Patty Mills this season. Poeltl will be a part of the rotation, and DeRozan will take the role as the lead guard on the roster. DeRozan averaged 23.0 points per game last season while playing 34 minutes on average in each contest. Will he be able to put up similar numbers in San Antonio? Yeah, but in the West, 23 PPG while being a below average defender in a conference that requires you to defend elite guards on a nightly basis may not be ideal for the Spurs.
If I were a betting man, and unfortunately, I am a bad one, my money would be on DeRozan making the 2019 All-Star roster. Gregg Popovich is one of the top NBA coaches of my lifetime, and I am sure he has thought of a perfect situation for DeRozan to fit into before shipping away his crown jewel. DeRozan’s lack of three-point shooting will hurt him, but there are not many guys that can stop him slashing toward the basket, and Pop will capitalize on that skill. DeRozan has two more years on his contract before he can opt out and become a free agent. There are plenty of rumors circulating that 2020 will be Popovich’s last season as coach of the Spurs, the same season that DeRozan hits free agency. They both need each other at this point of their respective careers, and I am a believer that this short-term marriage is going to work out just fine.
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