Last year the San Antonio Spurs missed their first playoffs in 23 seasons, which called for a radical change of philosophy. The Spurs are now transitioning from a winning franchise to a franchise that wants to develop players. That means a different approach to the game, one in which the best players have to share the ball more often.
Although the Spurs never had problems with selfishness, coach Popovich wanted to create an equal-rights offense. We’ve seen some of that in the Orlando bubble, and now we’re witnessing its upgrade. Smaller lineups, more threes, and fewer isolations are new in their game. The product is seven players averaging in double digits this season.
But the most significant change is seen in DeMar DeRozan‘s approach. His game has transcended the mid-range, and it isn’t one dimensional anymore. DeRozan’s being used in the post-up game only when there’s a mismatch, and his numbers are good in that area.
Three-point shooting wasn’t in his vocabulary until this season either. DeMar and the Spurs preferred those long deuces instead of threes. But he’s been working on his long-range shooting lately. Even though the volume isn’t there (he’s attempting 2.6 threes per game), he’s been very accurate, getting 39.1% of his threes in. That’s the best percentage of his career.
Oh, and he’s been generous to his teammates a lot more. DeRozan averages seven assists per game, and he’s ranked 11th in the league in assists. Even with his involvement in the game, he’s not turning the ball often. Right now, DeRozan has only 1.3 turnovers per game, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is 5.25, one of the best in the league. However, DeRozan is still a reliant scorer that averages 21.2 points per game on 48.9% shooting. That part remains the same.
All things considered, DeRozan’s evolving game is going to put him in the driver’s seat this offseason, and that potentially means his name will be one of the most interesting among free agents. Will he search for another big contract or try to catch a ring is up to him. But we can already say he will have both options.
P.S. As long as Pop’s there, a significant rebuild isn’t probable. But if somehow the Spurs are obviously in the lottery, many teams might see DeRozan as the piece they need to get to the Finals. That would be a way for the Spurs to tank and get a high pick in a top-heavy draft class.