The last time we did this exercise, it was because there was a chance DeMar DeRozan would be a free agent.
It's a little different this time around.
Having picked up the player option in his contract for the 2020-21 season, DeRozan will be an unrestricted free agent at the season's end, giving him the option of signing with any team in the league this offseason.
DeRozan hasn't been named an All-Star since the 2017-18 season, but he's coming off one of the best seasons of his career. In addition to leading the San Antonio Spurs in scoring with 21.6 points per game, he averaged a career-best 6.9 assists to go along with 4.2 rebounds. He was incredibly efficient both as a scorer and playmaker, shooting 49.5 percent from the field while committing only 2.0 turnovers per game.
In a free agent class headlined by LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, DeRozan is widely considered to be one of the best players available this offseason.
With that in mind, where could DeRozan end up if he decides to leave the Spurs?
New York Knicks
The Knicks have a couple of things going for them this offseason. The first? They're going to have money to spend.
According to RealGM's Keith Smith, the Knicks could create as much as $72.8 million in cap space, the most in the league. That number is unlikely to actually be that high - Smith has their projected cap space at $53.1 million, which is still the most in the league - but they'll be in a position to offer one of the top free agents a max-level contract.
The second? A need for some playmaking, especially if Derrick Rose walks in free agency.
The Knicks were one of the best defensive teams in the league this season. It was the other end of the court where they struggled. In the regular season, they ranked 22nd in offensive efficiency in scoring at a rate of 110.2 points per 100 possessions. They struggled even more in their first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks, scoring at a rate of 102.1 points per 100 possessions to rank 15th in offensive efficiency among the 16 teams that made the playoffs.
DeRozan might not solve all of their offensive issues by himself - the Knicks would still be in desperate need of 3-point shooting - but he would ease the playmaking burden off of Julius Randle and give New York a go-to scorer to pair with RJ Barrett in the backcourt.
The Knicks were an option the last time we looked at free agent destinations for DeRozan for many of the same reasons. The biggest difference this time around is they're trending upwards, having gone from posting a 21-45 record in 2019-20 to earning the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed with a 41-31 record in 2020-21.
If DeRozan is looking to maximize his earnings while still playing a leading role on a competitive team, the Knicks check a lot of boxes.
As noted by The Athletic's Sam Amick and John Hollinger, the Mavericks could have around $35.0 million in room this offseason. The problem? It hinges on Josh Richardson opting out of his $11.6 million player option for 2021-22, which seems unlikely based on how his season ended.
Still, the Mavericks could have enough cap space to be in the running for DeRozan, and he fits the bill of what they're supposedly looking for.
"We need a secondary ball handler with some size," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told The Daily Beast following the team's first-round exit to the LA Clippers.
"KP will spread the court, make 3s, is a great cutter and block shots. Luka will create. We've got shooters with Tim [Hardaway] and Trey [Burke] and Maxi [Kleber] and others. But we need someone to take the pressure off of Luka, so instead of him having to have the ball in his hands for 40 minutes, it could be 32 minutes, and that's what we need."
DeRozan's limitations as a 3-point shooter might be more problematic in Dallas than they were in San Antonio because he'd be sharing the court with one of the league's premiere playmakers, but he would give the Mavericks a high-level secondary playmaker who could take pressure off of Luka Doncic. Not only would it give Doncic more of a breather, but it would give the Mavericks someone they could run their offence through whenever the two-time All-Star is on the bench.
According to NBA.com, the Mavericks went from scoring at a rate of 116.6 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the court to 107.7 with him on the bench during the regular season. For context, that was the difference between the Mavericks ranking fourth and 26th in offensive efficiency. It was even uglier in their first-round series with the Clippers, dropping from 118.3 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the court to 83.0 with him on the bench.
Additionally, pairing DeRozan with a big like Kristaps Porzingis makes sense for him personally because of the spacing it would provide him on offence, allowing him to continue playing to his strengths.
A core of Doncic, DeRozan and Porzingis would likely run into some issues defensively, but the three of them have the potential to pack quite the punch offensively.
The Grizzlies will be players in free agency if they decline Justise Winslow's $13.0 million team option for 2021-22 and waive Jontay Porter, who has a non-guarantee in his contract for next season.
If they decide to go down that route, signing someone like DeRozan becomes a possibility.
On one hand, DeRozan doesn't fit the development timeline of Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr., each of whom are under the age of 26. The Grizzlies could do with more 3-point shooting as well, having finished the 2020-21 season ranked 24th in 3-point makes, 23rd in 3-point attempts and 20th in 3-point percentage.
For what it's worth, the Grizzlies' most-used lineup this season of Morant, Brooks, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas ranked in the 70th percentile for spacing, per The BBall Index's nifty lineup creator tool. Replace Anderson with DeRozan, and they drop to the 63rd percentile. Replace Allen with DeRozan, and they drop to the 42nd percentile. Replace Brooks with DeRozan, and they drop to the 40th percentile.
On the other hand, adding DeRozan would give the Grizzlies a proven scorer and playmaker, one who could lift their ceiling offensively in the short-term.
It helps that DeRozan has experience playing with Jonas Valanciunas, as the two of them were teammates for six seasons on the Toronto Raptors. They had quite a lot of success, making the playoffs in five of their six seasons together. It also helps that the Grizzlies have Jackson, who is one of the league's best 3-point shooting big men. Playing him at center would cover for some of DeRozan's limitations offensively.
It wouldn't make for the cleanest of fits, but the Grizzlies are still an interesting option for DeRozan.
Toronto Raptors - The Raptors could have a decent amount of cap space to work with and have a need for a playmaker. While they could address that need with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and use the bulk of their cap space to re-sign their free agents, DeRozan is an option if they're looking to make a big move and are interested in a reunion.
Chicago Bulls - The Bulls could create upwards of $30.0 million in cap space if they move on from Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. There was some talk around the trade deadline of the Bulls being interested in DeRozan, so this would be their chance to pursue him.
Miami Heat - The Heat are always looking to make a splash. The question is, is a core of DeRozan, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo enough for them to contend in the Eastern Conference?
Los Angeles Lakers - Born in Compton, California, DeRozan grew up watching Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. It wouldn't be a surprise if he was interested in a homecoming, but it would likely require a sign-and-trade to make it work. Would the Lakers have the assets to pull that off if there was mutual interest?
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