For DeMar DeRozan, it's extension or bust.
Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported on TNT that DeRozan plans to decline his player option for the 2020-21 season and become a free agent if he and the San Antonio Spurs are unable to agree on a contract extension (h/t Paul Garcia of Project Spurs). DeRozan has a player option for $27.7 million next season.
However, after the game, DeRozan downplayed the report, per Jeff McDonald of mySanAntonio.com:
“Who reported it? Did my Mama say it?," DeRozan said. "Don’t listen to it then.”
DeRozan, 30, would be one of the top players available in what projects to be a weak free-agency class this summer. He continues to score at a high level, averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists while shooting 52.8 percent from the field.
His overall impact has always been hurt by his poor defense and reluctance to shoot threes, however. Though he's San Antonio's leading scorer, the Spurs are actually better when DeRozan sits (1.0 net rating) than when he plays (minus-2.9 net rating), per NBA.com. He's also shooting just 26.7 percent on 0.5 three-point attempts per game.
In turn, the Spurs have gone just 26-36 this season and are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign. They are currently five games behind the Memphis Grizzlies (32-32) for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
It's hard to imagine head coach Gregg Popovich being interested in a rebuild at this point in his career, but it may be time for the Spurs to consider going that route and building around Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and future draft picks.
Extending or re-signing DeRozan doesn't seem likely to keep San Antonio in the playoff hunt unless more moves are made to add talent. This season is proof of that much.
Despite what his scoring average seems to indicate, DeRozan becoming a free agent might not be the end of the world for San Antonio.