Arguably the best day on the
calendar has officially arrived. Welcome to NBA free-agency,
everybody. Today should be a huge news day, with a flurry of
big-time moves occurring over the next 24 hours to open the
moratorium period. There are already reports that Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat is pretty
much a done deal via sign-and-trade.
Outside of Lowry, one of the
biggest names available on the open market who figures to be with a
new team soon is DeMar DeRozan.
After being shipped from the
Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard
trade, DeRozan has reinvented his game to become one of the better
tertiary wing playmakers. Averaging only 3.1 assists over nine
seasons in Toronto, DeRozan doubled that to 6.2 assists during his
three-year stint with the Spurs.
DeRozan is also one of the best
mid-range artists in the Association, able to get buckets at will
from his hot spots.
Add those two factors together
and DeRozan is a player who is well-deserving of a huge payday.
Recently, DeRozan was linked to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers,
but now that
appears unlikely since
he (understandably) wants more than the mid-level exception.
Wherever he lands, he could be the missing piece for a team looking
to take a leap forward in 2021-22. Let's go ahead and dive into the
possible destinations for DeRozan as free agency kicks
After pivoting away from the
Lowry sweepstakes, how will Dallas spend their $30-plus million in
cap space? Mark Cuban would be wise to splurge on DeRozan, who fits
very well alongside the Mavs’ inside-out duo of Luka Doncic and
In order to make this happen,
the Mavericks would need to renounce Tim Hardaway Jr.'s cap hold.
Although Hardaway Jr. had a resurgent 2020-21 campaign, DeRozan
takes much-needed pressure off Doncic as a ball-handler. During the
Mavericks' first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers,
Doncic's usage rate was above 40. That can't happen long-term if
Dallas wants to make deep playoff runs throughout Doncic's
Paying DeRozan $20-$30 million
annually over the next three or four years is a gamble, but the
disastrous Porzingis max contract has put the Mavericks in a tough
spot to make significant splashes. DeRozan is probably their best
shot in the near future.
NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks have been trying for
years to woo superstars to the Big Apple, but every time, they've
been left at the altar. With $50 million in cap space, will the
Knicks go star hunting once again, or fill out the roster with a
lot of win-now role players?
One underlying factor that
should play into the Knicks' free-agency decisions is the future of
Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard. So much smoke has
billowed out of the Pacific Northwest already about Lillard being
unhappy and the 2021-22 season potentially being GM Neil Olshey's
last chance to build a title contender around the All-NBA point
Right away, the Knicks were
mentioned as a team that Lillard could be interested in joining in
the near future. If things fall apart for Lillard and the Trail
Blazers, New York is set
up to make a compelling offer using some pieces from their young core (which
includes R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel
Quickley, Kevin Knox and Quentin Grimes among others).
With DeRozan on the roster,
perhaps the Knicks become even more attractive to disgruntled stars
since they would likely be closer to contention. Right away,
DeRozan helps improve the Knicks' standing in the Eastern
Conference, becoming a go-to scorer alongside Julius Randle. And we
all know head coach Tom Thibodeau would love him as
Even if the Lillard sweepstakes
never materializes in the near future, DeRozan gives New York a
much-needed boost and helps them stay in the top half of the East
over the next couple of seasons.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
The pressure is already on the
Pelicans to improve drastically. Time is ticking with their young
superstar Zion Williamson. There are already rumors that some of Williamson’s family members want
him to change teams, and it’s possible that Zion could look to
leave if New Orleans continues to stagnate.
New Orleans needs shooting, and
lots of it. DeRozan doesn't help them improve in that facet, but
he's a win-now fringe star who can help push the Pelicans to the
playoffs. A trio of Williamson, Brandon Ingram and DeRozan could be
appealing and help Zion make his postseason debut.
If GM David Griffin is able to
fill out the roster around Williamson, Ingram and DeRozan with
sharpshooters, this has the makings of a playoff team in 2021-22
and beyond. The question is, does DeRozan want to roll the dice on
a younger team like New Orleans?
DeRozan in Charlotte would be
really, really fun. Imagine DeRozan in an up-tempo offense led by
LaMelo Ball and surrounded by appealing prospects (such as Miles
Bridges, James Bouknight, PJ Washington and Kai Jones). Add in
Gordon Hayward and this is a team that’s locked into a playoff spot
for the next few years.
In order for the Hornets to fit
DeRozan into their cap space, they would need to dump Terry
Rozier's $17.9 million expiring elsewhere. And with all the
guard-needy teams out there, Charlotte could surely find a suitor
for Rozier quickly.
The Hornets are still three
years away from Ball's big second contract filling up their books.
Why not make a run for DeRozan on a three-year deal reaching
upwards of $25 million per season? Like the surprising Hayward move
last offseason, this is only the way top-tier free agents will
consider signing with Charlotte.
The Grizzlies are another team
with an intriguing young core that would have to jump through some
hoops to make the money work in order to pursue DeRozan. Memphis
received their first taste of the playoffs in the Ja Morant era,
and they might be hungry for more now with their young star ready
to continue his ascent.
DeRozan would fit perfectly into
the Grizzlies’ starting lineup. Memphis needs an aggressive,
score-first wing who can also take pressure off Morant. Enter
DeRozan, who checks all of those boxes.
However, after Memphis’
pre-draft trade with the Pelicans that brought in Eric Bledsoe,
Steven Adams and the No. 10 pick, they’d need to pull off some
salary-cap magic to make this work. The Grizzlies would likely need
to trade Bledsoe and Kyle Anderson's $9.9 million expiring
contract. If those moves happened, Memphis would be at $29 million
in available cap space.
DeRozan has mentioned he wants
to win championships, so will he be interested in Memphis or any of
the other young teams listed here that are still a few years away?
That's the big question, but, as we all know, money
This is where things get really
interesting. Pat Riley can recruit with the best of them, and
Miami's win-now core has a multi-year championship window. Lowry is
on his way to join Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in South Beach. Why
not have Lowry's best friend DeRozan join them as well?
This is a lineup that completely
ignores the modern importance of spacing. However, as we saw in the
playoffs, having copious amounts of bucket-getters on the court
Miami has limited flexibility to
make this idea happen, but it's certainly possible. In a
sign-and-trade with San Antonio, Miami would send Duncan Robinson
(whom San Antonio has reportedly shown interest in) and KZ Okpala.
If the Spurs signed Robinson to a restricted deal around $20
million per year, this fairytale idea could grow some legs.
According to Ethan Skolnick of Five Reasons
Sports, Miami has tossed
around the idea of Lowry and DeRozan as their big-fish
Never count out Pat Riley. We'll
see if this type of situation bubbles to the surface here
The Pacers are in an interesting
spot. Do they run it back or blow it all up in the near future?
Right now, Indiana seems stuck in the middle, and that's not a good place to be. Hiring
Rick Carlisle as their new head coach after the disastrous Nate
Bjorkgren tenure, the Pacers might feel they can stand pat and see
how this season goes before making big changes.
However, the Pacers would be
wise to explore all options with their core players, sans Caris
LeVert, T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis. Pacers owner Herb Simon
is about to be 87 years old, so he likely wants Indiana to be
If DeRozan intrigues Indiana,
perhaps the Pacers can send the salaries of Myles Turner and Jeremy
Lamb to San Antonio in a sign-and-trade scenario. Turner, who has
been in trade rumors for years now, is also a player whom the Spurs
could covet as a long-term piece.
Indiana has avoided paying the
luxury tax during Simon’s tenure as owner, and acquiring DeRozan
doesn't change that. The Pacers would be able to bring aboard
DeRozan, while also re-signing backup point guard T.J. McConnell on
a long-term deal.
A win-now core for Indiana
featuring DeRozan, LeVert, Sabonis and Warren is very intriguing.
However, would DeRozan sign off on playing in Indianapolis for the
next few years?
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Now we're starting to get crazy,
but, again, it's possible. The Clippers will be without Kawhi
Leonard most of next season due to a partially torn ACL. Why not
package together Luke Kennard and Patrick Beverley and scour the
sign-and-trade market? Those two together equal out to $27 million.
What about Kennard, Beverley and some second-round picks for
DeRozan? Would that interest San Antonio?
Los Angeles would still be able
to bring back Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum on team-friendly
deals in this scenario as well, if Leonard waits to re-sign a big
Imagine a starting lineup of
Jackson, DeRozan, Paul George, Leonard and Ivica Zubac. That's a
true threat to win multiple championships in the near
DeRozan has already expressed
his desire to return home. With the Lakers making the Russell
Westbrook trade, their assets and cap flexibility are limited.
Enter the Clippers, who could make another shocking splash in
Free-agency is here, so stay
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