Barring any multiplayer or premiere level player trades, the San Antonio Spurs are expected to have a stable offseason. They’ll likely draft two first rounders, try to re-sign Rudy Gay, and then use the non-tax mid-level exception to sign a role player up to $9.2 million. But, there is an option for the Spurs to lockdown one of their own players before he’s able to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and the chance might increase of them losing him for nothing.
That player is DeMar DeRozan. Next summer, DeRozan has a player option for $27.7 million. If he declines the option, he’d become an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could choose to re-sign with the Spurs or look to sign with any other team that has max cap space ($40.6 million) and wants to sign him. The Spurs could try to prevent this from happening by signing DeRozan to a four-year extension starting on July 6. Doing so would allow the team to get rid of his player option and increase his salary by 120%, which would go from $27.7 million to $33.3 million in the first year of the extension (2020-21 season).
Here are what the scenarios will look like for DeRozan if he signs the extension this summer with the Spurs or if he waits to see if he can get a max from a new team next summer. The table was provided by Bobby Marks of ESPN in this article.
|2020-21||$33.3 mil||$40.6 mil||31|
|2021-22||$35.9 mil||$42.6 mil||32|
|2022-23||$38.6 mil||$44.7 mil||33|
|2023-24||$41.3 mil||$46.7 mil||34|
|Total||$149.1 mil||$174.6 mil|
As Marks noted in his piece, while multiple teams will have max cap space to offer DeRozan, it’s unknown if he would command the max as of today. But, since multiple teams will have max room, there’s always that chance that the Spurs might need to be wary about. Aside from the Kawhi Leonard drama that unfolded during the 2017-18 season, the Spurs have usually been aggressive in trying to lockdown their own premiere players and not letting them sniff free agency. This was the case with the Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker at different times in their careers, and it was the most recent case with LaMarcus Aldridge.
If the Spurs let DeRozan walk next summer, then they’d have some cap space to try to sign a marquee free agent. The problem is there won’t be that many marquee free agents next summer in 2020. Anthony Davis (probably won’t sign in San Antonio) is the top name in the class with players like Draymond Green and Kyle Lowry also available in the unrestricted class. The Spurs likely wouldn’t sign any of those players and the other available free agents wouldn’t provide the playmaking and scoring the Spurs get from DeRozan.
If the Spurs and DeRozan don’t come to an agreement on an extension this summer, then the trade rumors could start heating up. They’ve already begun to ignite, as Marks and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com have already connected DeRozan’s name to the Los Angeles Lakers in the event the Lakers strike out in free agency. If the Lakers can’t get a star to join LeBron James, then they could look at acquiring a premiere level player via trade. Let’s say the Spurs and DeRozan can’t come to an agreement on an extension and there’s a sign DeRozan could walk the following summer in free agency. Well then in this scenario the Spurs might have that conversation with the Lakers to try to get one of the Lakers’ young players and/or draft picks for DeRozan now before the chances increase of the Spurs losing DeRozan for nothing in free agency the following summer.
Now that the foundation of all the mechanics for a possible DeRozan extension have been laid out, let’s look at the decisions for and against an extension for each party involved.
The Spurs: Case for extending DeRozan
As mentioned above, if the franchise feels DeRozan will continue to be one of their go-to players for the next five seasons, then they can get him on a deal now that will be below what they’d have to pay him in free agency, while eliminating the chance he walks for nothing next summer in free agency.
The Spurs: Case against extending DeRozan
Since the Spurs are starting to build a young foundation behind the arc with Dejounte Murray (22), Derrick White (24), Lonnie Walker IV (20), and possibly if they add a wing with the 19 and/or 29 picks, the question has to be asked about how long they want DeRozan to continue to be one of the go-to players on offense. DeRozan had a team high 30.7 usage rate this season, and though he scores through the mid-range, rim, and free throw line, he’s still missing the production from the 3-point line. The chances of him becoming a volume respectable three-point shooter at 29 going into his 30s don’t look high right now. While he’s also one of the better shot creators, there’s still the factor of having to worry about his defense on the other end of the court during each possession. If the franchise has another premiere free agent in mind down the line or if they want the young guys to start taking responsibility as key playmakers, then the extension option for DeRozan wouldn’t be ideal.
DeRozan: Case for extending with Spurs
At 29, this extension would give DeRozan security for the next five seasons, knowing he’ll be under contract until age 34. It also eliminates the risk of DeRozan going into free agency next summer and not getting a max offer. While DeRozan is considered one of the go-to players for the Spurs, his standing in the league dropped a bit as he didn’t earn All-Star or All-NBA honors this season.
DeRozan: Case against extending with Spurs
Not signing an extension with the Spurs would give DeRozan the chance to secure a more lucrative 5-year max deal with the Spurs next summer (if offered by the team) or signing a more lucrative 4-year max deal with another team (should they offer it). It would also give DeRozan the opportunity to choose where he wants to play. While he chose to sign with Toronto the last time he was a free agent, he didn’t choose to play in San Antonio – where that move was made because he was traded. If he doesn’t get an extension this summer, then he’ll have the choice of going through free agent meetings with different teams or deciding to stay with the Spurs if both sides still have interest.
Lastly, whether the Spurs sign DeRozan to the extension or not, they’re still going to have a decent chunk of cap space in 2020 depending on if/how much Rudy Gay re-signs for, if/how much they sign a player with the MLE, and what they decide to do with their unrestricted free agents next summer in Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, and Davis Bertans.
So, while it should be a quiet summer for the Spurs, keep an eye on extension talks between DeRozan and the Spurs. Should any signs come out that both sides aren’t headed toward an extension, then the trade rumor mill could begin to spin.