The narrative surrounding DeMar DeRozan for years has been that of his missing outside jumper, which feels wrong considering how offensively brilliant he’s been virtually everywhere else.
The 2020/2021 version of DeRozan was particularly effective, averaging 21.6 points, a career-high 6.9 assists, 7.2 free throw attempts per night, and a steady TS% of 59.1% while playing mostly at a position unfamiliar to him.
The 6’6 DeRozan played a type of small-ball power forward, using his ball-handling ability, speed and overall explosive nature to take advantage of slower players. The concept worked, allowing San Antonio’s young core of guard and wings to play alongside the 31-year-old former All-Star, instead of backing him up from the bench.
With DeRozan now having proved himself succesful in that role, teams will undoubtedly have more interest in him this summer, as playmaking forwards are some of the most coveted assets in the league.
With that in mind, let’s look at four possible destinations for DeRozan
With Luka Doncic being not just the primary option offensively, but also the primary ball-handler and decision-maker, it might be a good idea to provide him with a breather every once in a while. DeRozan is a great theoretical fit, as he can move away from the ball and use his quickness to make hard cuts to the basket, as well as handle the ball for extended periods of time.
Ideally, Doncic will spent the next few years lowering the degree of difficulty on some of his shots, and step into more shots for easier conversion. DeRozan can help with that endeavor, as his 6.9 assists rate with just a 9.7% TOV% would make most traditional point guard blush.
DeRozan would make an interesting fit as the team’s third guy between Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, as he can bridge them in terms of playing time. Head coach Rick Carlisle could always have at least one of the three on the court at all times, which should allows the Mavs to avoid longer stretches of offensive inefficiency.
Defensively, it would be a challenging fit, so Dallas would have to lean in on offense, as they’re already doing.
DeRozan was rumored to the Bulls near the NBA Trade Deadline, but nothing came of it. He’s now a free agent and could jump to the Windy City and function as another bridge, this time between Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
The Bulls need playmaking, and desperately so. While DeRozan isn’t your typical playmaker, his numbers don’t lie and he should be able to function as Chicago’s pseudo point guard, albeit at one of the forward spots, with Patrick Williams taking the more difficult defensive cover on a nightly basis.
DeRozan’s scoring would also be welcome, as the Bulls have been an inconsistent performer in that category. Adding another offensive layer to the Bulls should also free up LaVine to make use of his new-found shot selection and overall efficiency.
With Vucevic’s ability to stretch out any opposing defense, it would also minimize the affect of DeRozan’s weak outside shot, allowing the Bulls to use DeRozan as the slasher in a four-out schematic setting.
San Antonio Spurs
Why mess with what’s working? The Spurs love to be competitive, and retaining DeRozan achieves this more than it does if he walks.
Maybe San Antonio decides to focus on their young players, in which case separating on good terms is perfectly valid for both sides, but that has never been their MO. In fact, the Spurs have a strong pattern of keeping themselves in the fight, even if they ended up sacrificing draft position.
If they feel as though they have another playoff run in them, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they offered DeRozan a contract to remain a Spur.
Of course, it’d be entirely up to DeRozan to figure out if that’s something he wants.
Kyle Lowry will have a lot to say about this. The 35-year-old point guard is, like DeRozan, an unrestricted free agent and can determine his own future. But, given that the two are close friends who loved their time together in Toronto, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they get together and come up with a financial solution that allows Toronto to re-sign Lowry and re-acquire DeRozan, who they gave up for Kawhi Leonard in 2018.
It would be a storybook ending for Lowry and DeRozan if they spend their remaining years in the NBA alongside one another, and it frankly would be fitting given how they complement each other’s skills.
Make no mistake about DeRozan’s impact on Toronto as well. He wouldn’t be any type of complimentary signing, but a fully fledged home run. Not only does he know the city and the organization, but if he’s running with Lowry there wouldn’t be a need to set aside time for the two to develop on-court chemistry. That’s already well-established.
The Raptors would also get a highly competent scorer, who can take over down the stretch of games, which is something they could use.