The Pacers—And Everyone Else—Should Avoid DeMar DeRozan

The San Antonio Spurs are, unsurprisingly, rumored to be interested in moving on from DeMar DeRozan, figuring out a year too late that having a guy who relies heavily on low-efficiency midrange jump shots probably isn’t a guy you want taking a high volume of shots in your offense in 2019.

What’s more, DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard, by virtue of being swapped for each other, provided a perfect test case for just how grotesquely overrated DeRozan is, as 60 regular-season games of Kawhi Leonard was (as this goes to press, it’s the day before Game 5, so if you’re reading this after the 2019 Finals and Golden State came back, consider me king of the idiots) good enough for an NBA championship for a historically underachieving Raptors team.

Leonard shot 37.1 percent from three in 2018-19. Danny Green, who replaced DeRozan at shooting guard in Toronto’s lineup, shot 45.5 percent.

DeRozan shot 15.6 percent on a Spurs team that surrendered—after a hard fight, but they still lost—against Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

Granted, DeRozan put up a best-since-his-rookie-year 48.1 percent FG% overall, but that had everything to do with the way San Antonio used him. He took just 3.4 percent of his overall attempts from three-point range, so clanging them off the rim didn’t have the detriment to his overall percentage that shooting 28.8 percent from out there in Toronto on a fifth of his overall attempts did.

But that doesn’t make his midrange shooting actually good! DeRozan had a career low free throw rate of just .336 made FT per FGA. His True Shooting actually declined from .550 or better in his last three years in Toronto down to .542 even as all those wild threes dropped off his shot chart.

Among 120 guards qualified for the scoring title, DeRozan was 73rd in True Shooting and 91st in eFG%.

When you’re that inefficient, you’re a liability scoring 21.2 points per game, not an asset—the counting stat was a function of his 27.9 percent usage rate, and you don’t want a guy in the bottom quartile of the league in field goal shooting efficiency taking that many of your shots.

The Spurs have been rumored to be trying to talk Indiana into a sign-and-trade wherein Bojan Bogdanovic is traded to the Spurs for DeRozan and whatever motley assortment of role players or draft picks or whatever make the salary cap numbers work.

This would be such an exceptionally stupid idea that if Kevin Pritchard doesn’t immediately tell RC Buford to get out of Tyreke Evans‘ secret stash, Pritchard should be fired on the spot. Because you would have to be on some hard drugs to think the move makes any sense for Indiana.

On that list I mentioned earlier of True Shooting and eFG%? Bogdanovic is on it because Basketball Reference’s Play Index has a loose definition of the term “guard-forward”.

And he ranked 9th in eFG% and 7th in True Shooting despite having Nate McMillan as his coach and therefore only getting to shoot about 4.5 threes a game. Bogdanovic was so efficient that he scored 18 points a game on just 13 field goal attempts, and despite being a no-dribble jump shooter, he was still crafty enough to get himself to the line for a .290 FTR.

You could argue that DeRozan is a better defender, and that’s certainly true, but considering what Indiana’s defensive rotations ask of their wing shooters on that end and it matters a lot less. It’s easier to stay home on your assignment on the perimeter when you have Myles Turner as your center and the third-best defense in the league than it is when you’re playing on the 19th-ranked team defensively.

All the same, DeRozan is a guy with an All-Star-in-2019 contract and an All-Star-in-2002 game.

Bogdanovic is a top ten shooter in terms of efficiency. With Victor Oladipo back, he gets to return to a role as a secondary or even tertiary—more on this in another story, but we still have to talk about Kemba Walker or Mike Conley or D’Angelo Russell or whoever else the Pacers get to play point guard next year—scorer, a role that was written in the stars over Mostar on the day Bogey was born.

The Pacers would be beyond insane to trade Bogdanovic for DeRozan. If they’re going to give that salary slot to that role, better to open the wallet and keep the guy San Antonio wants them to trade!

RC Buford and Gregg Popovich are going to have to lie in the bed they made with that dinosaur of a roster unless they can find a GM dumb enough to take Dark Age DeMar off their hands—which they very well might, but Kevin Pritchard, one hopes if one is a Pacers fan, isn’t that dumb.

If you’re going to sign-and-trade Bogdanovic for a guy making almost $28 million a year, there are dozens of other, better players on teams that have a need for a wing scorer. Trade with them instead.