LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are still San Antonio Spurs. They probably shouldn’t be for the entire 2020-21 season, given that the Western Conference playoff outlook will likely exclude them. Last week, I wrote about a set of teams that should target Aldridge between now and the trade deadline, and if one’s gotta go, there’s no reason to keep the other.
DeRozan isn’t a darling in the nerd basketball community because of his propensity to shoot long two-pointers, but he’s almost become underrated as a result. Ultimately, he’s a four-time All-Star, a career 20 points per game scorer, an improved playmaker, and he’s on an expiring contract. Plus he can’t stay in San Antonio this whole season … can he!?
He shouldn’t, and that’s why we’re gathered here today: To salvage the end of DeRozan’s run with the Spurs by shipping him to a true contender, or just a fun situation, while San Antonio rebuilds as they’re gearing up to do.
2 / 5
The Nuggets actually make the most sense for a DeRozan deal. Denver has many usable draft picks in upcoming years and needs to improve at guard next to Jamal Murray, unless Gary Harris returns to the promise he showed before his last two seasons. Denver has more than enough pieces and picks needed to execute a deal for a true All-Star caliber talent to join their already loaded roster. If Bubble Jamal Murray turns out to be real Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have already made an improvement as a team, or have at least compensated for Jerami Grant’s departure. Then there’s the wildcard of Michael Porter Jr, accompanied by the team’s best player, Nikola Jokic, and the returning Paul Millsap.
DeRozan would give the Nuggets a Murray-DeRozan-Porter-Millsap-Jokic starting line-up, one of the most balanced of any NBA contender vying for the 2021 Championship. Landing DeRozan would acquire Harris’ unattractive near-$40 million spread between 2020-21 and 2021-22. The remaining Nuggets’ package would theoretically include something built around Bol Bol and draft compensation, like Bol, Vlatko Cancar, a 2021 first-rounder, and perhaps an additional pick or two if necessary. Monte Morris and PJ Dozier also have sub-$2 million salaries that could be utilized, and there’s the recently drafted RJ Hampton, though he probably should be the shooting guard of the future.
Even next to Murray, DeRozan might be the best passing guard in Denver, and the second-best playmaker overall aside from Jokic. With the Spurs, DeRozan’s averaged 21.6 points, with nearly six rebounds and six assists per game on over 50 percent shooting from the field. What’s made him awkward to pundits is his low volume and inefficient three-point shooting. He’s made just 28 percent from deep in his career, and only 20 percent on far less than one attempt per game while a Spur. But in Denver, the unwillingness to shoot threes could be masked beside the trigger happy Murray, the sharpshooting Porter, and the reliable Jokic-Millsap combo.
3 / 5
Does this team, like the Atlanta Hawks, just want excitement? Do they just want Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke, and Jaren Jackson Jr to get some playoff experience early in their career amid an intensely challenging Western Conference? Upon reading their name you might say to yourself, “well, why would Memphis do that!? They’re not going to win a Championship! They’re not going to even get out of the first round!!!”
Who gives a shit?
People pay for sex all the time, quick as it may be for some. Just because you sleep with someone once doesn’t mean you’re getting married, but it might mean you’ve had an amazing 20-minute one-night stand or so ... if that. For some, one-night stands are all-timers, ones they reflect on even during marriage. Sometimes, you have more fun reminiscing on that brief encounter than you do raising your children later on in life.
I’m not saying DeRozan is going to marry the Memphis Grizzlies, but they can have fun together by making the playoffs, even though he’s on an expiring contract.
Historically, we’re assholes. We admire someone on their climb to the top more than when they actually scale the mountain. Memphis may likely be on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff picture again this season. Sure, they play hard, but don’t you want Morant and Jackson Jr to make the playoffs, even if the experience would be a four or five-game series against a team like Denver or the Lakers?
Gorgui Dieng, Dillon Brooks, and draft compensation could get this done mathematically. The Spurs would get their coveted picks, and a decent longish-term swingman in Brooks, as well as Dieng’s $17 million expiring deal. This joins DeRozan with a starting five that’ll include Justise Winslow and Jonas Valanciunas as well. How fun would a starting line-up of Morant-DeRozan-Winslow-Jackson-Valanciunas be, with Clarke as the sixth man? Get DeRozan in there for a good time, not a long time, Memphis. (I mean, you could also try to keep him if you want to, I suppose.)
4 / 5
It’s very hard to salary-match DeRozan to many of the true upper-echelon teams in the NBA right now, especially considering many of them are set at what DeRozan excels in. Instead, let’s go to Charlotte, because they’re obviously trying to win now, albeit questionably and clumsily.
Clearly, Michael Jordan just wants to get shit crackin’ in the Tar Heel State. With Hayward and PJ Washington, you’re already putting a ceiling on Miles Bridges, whom the Spurs did have interest in before he was drafted in 2018. You also can’t really keep Terry Rozier, Devonte Graham and LaMelo Ball as teammates for long, could you? (Then again, who knows with Jordan?)
Center this deal around DeRozan for Bridges. To make it work financially, you’ll need Cody Zeller’s expiring $15.4 million salary, along with, let’s say, Malik Monk. To make it work in fairness, you’ll need obvious draft compensation. To add another layer to this, it could even be a three-team deal where Charlotte attaches additional draft compensation to Terry Rozier and sends him to the New York Knicks for Julius Randle. Your starting line-up becomes Graham-DeRozan-Hayward-Washington-Randle. Vernon Carey Jr, whom the Hornets just made a serious commitment to, could also be the starting center with either Washington or Randle coming first off the bench, along with Ball (unless Ball starts over Graham, of course).
The Hornets, like the Hawks, are just trying to get shit poppin’, so why not just get DeRozan and secure that sixth or seventh seed? Like the Grizzlies, pair up and just make it a good time. You might need him given Hayward’s injury history anyway.