The Toronto Raptors reportedly contemplated trading DeMar DeRozan last summer. After another unsuccessful postseason, has this scenario become more realistic?
On Tuesday, The New York Times‘ Mark Stein claimed the Toronto Raptors quietly explored their trade options with DeMar DeRozan during last summer. Stein went on to write they then decided against this potential course of action, due to an “inkling” he had a breakout season looming.
If we’re honest, it is more likely the Raptors were just following due process, in respect of considering all options involving DeRozan. And we’re not sure where this talk about a breakout season would even come from; he was already coming off this kind of a campaign, averaging career highs for points and rebounds in 2016-17.
Regardless, there is every possibility any talk of trading the four-time All-Star will now ramp up. On first thought, this will understandably sound asinine, given the overall season he and the team have just had.
The Raptors set a new franchise record for regular season wins and secured the first number one seed in team history. As for DeRozan himself, he had arguably his most efficient well-rounded season yet, which included an improvement in his 3-point shooting and a career-best in assists per game.
The 2009 ninth overall draft pick is everything you would look for in a star player. He puts in as much effort as anyone, is always looking to improve his game and offers loyalty; a trait which has often been in short supply for Toronto’s NBA team.
As such, fans could be forgiven for thinking there is no possibility DeRozan will be traded. He holds several team records and has been a major part of the most successful period in franchise history.
And yet, you only have to look at one other person to know this is not only possible, but realistic. That person would be Dwane Casey.
Casey was fired despite putting together his best season yet as Raptors’ head coach, including helping them rank in the top five for both offensive and defensive efficiency. When it came down to it though, his ongoing lack of success in the playoffs was what convinced Masai Ujiri it was time to move on.
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In this respect, DeRozan is in an extremely similar position. Despite another fine regular season, he didn’t deliver when it mattered most against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The irony is the 28-year-old seemed to be changing this narrative after the previous round, versus the Washington Wizards. The Raptors advanced in six games, and his 26.7 points per contest were a personal high for a playoff series.
In fairness to DeRozan, he didn’t perform too badly in the opening two games against the Cavaliers, particularly in Game 1. However, he then scored 21 points total in the remaining two contests and the sweep was completed.
Your franchise players are meant to step up under the bright lights of the playoffs. And yet, as good as DeRozan is, he isn’t a superstar, which is where decision time is again looming for the Raptors.
In this respect, Ujiri’s biggest problem may be finding a package which is appealing enough to move a player he has a close relationship with. Who is realistically out there, who could — theoretically at least — provide an improvement?
One name which has been getting decent traction recently, is Andrew Wiggins. He is an extremely talented youngster, who appears set to have a long and successful NBA career ahead of him.
However, is Wiggins really what the Raptors are looking for? Or is this more a case of romanticising a certain scenario, given the Toronto connection?
There is also the issue of DeRozan’s salary, which has two seasons to run, plus a player option in 2020-21. While the term isn’t too bad, it comes with an annual hit of $27.7 million, which was ranked 10th-highest among all NBA players this season.
Ultimately, we predict a similar scenario to last summer, in that the Toronto Raptors will again perform their due diligence and explore potential trades involving the Compton, California native. However, once more he will remain in Southern Ontario, after Ujiri is unable to find a package worth moving him for.
What would you do in the Toronto Raptors’ position? Would you attempt to trade DeRozan, or keep him around for at least for another season? Share your reasoning in the comments section below.