When it comes to how DeMar DeRozan will fare in his new gig with the San Antonio Spurs, there will doubtless be strong opinions on both sides, but to be overly emphatic either way is to not look at the complete picture. In truth, how DeRozan will do in San Antonio is as genuine of a question as we have from this offseason.
DeRozan has always been a bucket-getter, albeit in an old-school manner that's easy to criticize—overcriticize, even. His game is predicated on the mid-range post-ups and step-backs. It's more 2000s than 2010s, more Kobe Bryant than Stephen Curry.
It's not overly efficient, either. Last year, he was one of 28 players who averaged at least 20 points per game. But 22 of them had a higher true shooting percentage than DeRozan, which makes it easy to find fault, especially when you consider his 55.5 percent was a career high.
There is a place for DeRozan in the league, particularly if he's surrounded by players who can stretch the court and give him even a modicum of space to operate in. The Toronto Raptors provided that for him last year while sinking the fourth-most threes in the league.
The Spurs, however, are almost at the opposite extreme. Not only were they third-to-last in threes, but they were also 20th in free throws and 25th in restricted-area field goals, according to NBA.com. In other words, they were bad at just about every efficient way of scoring.
And therein lies the problem. Three players averaged at least 10 shots between the semicircles last year: Two of them are Aldridge (11.2) and DeRozan (10.0).
Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney puts it this way: "Both Aldridge and DeRozan are more versatile than they're given credit, but both gravitate toward scoring in the same, static style from the same, static spaces."
"They're not just spatially redundant, but functionally so. The pick-and-roll gives DeRozan and Aldridge some means of direct interaction, but without the kind of divergence that makes that play so effective. Ball screens are at their most effective when they make a defense account for two forces moving in opposite directions. DeRozan stepping into a pull-up jumper while Aldridge pops for a mid-range jumper not a few feet away hardly qualifies."
We end up talking about an offense built around the pick-and-roll between two players who occupy the same spots. It's more like square dancing than basketball. So, there's an argument to be made that this can't work.
But if there's anyone who can make this work, it's Gregg Popovich.