DeMar DeRozan is 31 years old and coming off of a max contract. This is the stage in a typical player’s career in which priorities often change. With money in the bank and a reputation already established, good enough players can choose to make sacrifices for the sake of winning, and that appears to be something DeRozan is willing to do as he approaches free agency.
The San Antonio Spurs veteran has never reached the NBA Finals. He’s missed the playoffs altogether in the past two seasons, and on an appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, he made it clear that this offseason, making it into the title conversation is his priority.
“At this point, you’ve gotta weigh out the opportunity to win a championship kind of more,” DeRozan said. “Especially with the career I’ve had. I’ve been fortunate enough to make good money, but the ultimate goal is always to compete for a championship.”
DeRozan has earned a projected $175 million in his career. Nobody would fault him for trying to earn more, but different players want different things. For DeRozan, winning seems to be the priority, and there’s an obvious place for him to try to do so if he’s willing to take a big enough pay cut.
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DeRozan grew up in Southern California and played his lone collegiate season at USC. Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that he would be willing to take a lesser payout to sign with his hometown Lakers, though, in fairness, he is likely going to have to come down from the $27 million salary he received last season no matter where he signs. The Lakers could come reasonably close to that figure through a sign-and-trade, but doing so would hard-cap them at the apron. That is the same obstacle the Clippers would have to overcome if they want to bring him to Los Angeles.
But both teams could offer him the lower taxpayer mid-level exception for roughly $5.9 million without restriction. That would be an enormous reduction in pay for a former All-Star to take, but that is the sort of sacrifice it often takes for a player like him to reach a championship contender. Such teams rarely have the cap space to sign players like that for market-value contracts.
DeRozan will draw plenty of interest, and there are playoff teams like the Knicks, Mavericks and Heat that will have the cap space to offer him a bigger contract. Those teams have a chance to be competitive, but his best chance at a ring would likely be in Los Angeles. He will have to balance that desire to compete with being fairly compensated in free agency. In a perfect world, he’d be able to find a team capable of satisfying both desires, but if he can’t, he’ll have a very difficult decision to make this offseason.