This season is going to be a vital one for Demar DeRozan and his future in the NBA and where it might be. The easy answer is he has a good season and shows promise and he and Raptors agree to a reasonable deal for both sides. The Raptors would have all the advantages in being able to sign him. He will be a restricted free agent having played out his rookie contract with the Raptors. So even in a worst case situation the Raptors would be able to match any offers that come his way.
That would be in a perfect world. Still that doesn't seem all that realistic. Let's be positive and say DeRozan has a break out season and finally lives up to the expectations the Raptors had when drafting him out of USC. He performs to a new level and looks like the future for the Raptors for next 5-10 years at the shooting guard position, or even shifting to small forward spot, if Ross were to develop into something as well. Sounds all good right? It might be, but how much would that cost the Raptors in terms of a contract? That is the more than million dollar question. In this past off-season we saw money flying around at an alarming rate. Lockout....Smockout. Players getting max contracts like Roy Hibbert with the Pacers. It is not to say Roy is not a good or even great player, I feel he is. In fact I was the guy that was a strong backer of the Raptors drafting him and keeping him. They got it half right in drafting him but it was for the Pacers as part of the ill fated J.O deal. If you end up paying to many players to much money that they are not actually worth it creates a lot of issues. This is unless you make the choice to say the salary cap be damned which is one the Raptors and MLSE have clearer avoided in the past. So even a great season for DeRozan could lead to a challenging choice for the Raptors to make. If he does have a solid season and they let him go or trade him away it would be viewed as the Raptors once again letting a player get away like so many before and we all know the list.
If things go the other way the Raptors will still have a problem. Assuming DeRozan were to have an average or below average season than what would the Raptors do? Give up on DeRozan and let him go away feeling they have what they want in Ross? Given the athletic ability of DeRozan that seems like a risky move. Still if you sign him what would the market offer a guy like DeRozan now? Assuming he was a free agent with the basic same skill set he has now. Who is to say really in this crazy NBA we live in now. Guys are paid more on their potential as opposed to their actual production. If the Raptors were to extend DeRozan with out any clear signs of progress that could backfire badly. There is no Amnesty net to bail you out on contracts signed post lockout.
Also just where does he now fit in the scheme of things for the Raptors? The additions of Lowry, Valancuinas, Fields and Ross what option does this make DeRozan? He was the clear 2nd option on offense last season and when he was without Bargnani the number one option which was a role he struggled with at times. Now what is he? Lowry can not only pass but score himself. Ross can clearly make more 3's than DeRozan will, and most would say has an advantage on the defensive end of the floor. Jonas is expected to be a big part of things but I would suspect on Offense in the short term he is not taking a ton of touches away. Fields will also deem touches if he can play to level he did as a rookie in New York.
There is also the issue of his position both in terms of starting and the amount of minutes he will play. In being a contract year a lesser number of minutes or a move to the bench would not be welcomed by DeRozan. It is unclear how he would respond to these things as for the most part he has been secure in his minutes and basically has been the starter at his position since he arrived.
I personally like Demar and want to see him do well. I think he still can be the player people expected. It just is going to be a very complicated season for the Raptors to figure out what they plan to do with him. If there intention is to keep him regardless of what happens that is one thing. However, if they are unclear on what they plan to do with him that could make him an attractive piece to be traded. A lot will be determined by Demar himself and how he has and is working this off-season. If he is able to translate his work ethic into a better player come the end of October. It is a season that will no matter what happens shape his immediate NBA future greatly.
My track record of players I personally like sticking around has sucked in recent years. While players I could do without seem to never go away. As a fan I want Demar DeRozan to stay. As someone that covers this team I know that it is not a sure thing he will. I find myself wanting to cheer for him to have a good season but not a great season. That way everything will workout for everyone including me. Still, as I said earlier it is not a perfect world. The Raptors off-season is more than proof of that. While they have got better it may not be good enough in the short term to make the playoffs. Much like DeRozan who I think has improved as player. It just may not be as fast as everyone would like.