The DeRozan Dilemma

Even if DeRozan is the next Gay, can the Raptors afford to wait on his development?

Even if DeRozan is the next Gay, can the Raptors afford to wait on his development?

Four days until the draft.

Four days until Demar DeRozan is the newest Toronto Raptor right?

Since we saw Jrue Holiday work out in person, the HQ has suspected that he, DeRozan, Henderson and Flynn were at the top of Toronto’s "one of these guys should be available at 9" draft board.

DeRozan appears to be the favourite, and Bryan Colangelo hasn’t been shy in recent radio interviews about his affinity for the USC product.

But is this the right way for BC to go?

Interestingly, the poll on our home page had most fans favouring DeRozan and Tyreke Evans by a long shot up until last week. Suddenly, some interesting statistical information courtesy of Jon Hollinger was revealed, and then that poll started to change. Guys like Gerald Henderson and Jonny Flynn started to gain momentum, and even the comments on the site referred to the dangers of drafting DeRozan.

There’s no clear answer of course.

As you’ll read in our interview with Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress, none of these prospects are exactly blue-chippers, and so picking DeRozan in the long run might be the best bet.

However here’s a thought I had this weekend.

Let’s say DeRozan is like T-Mac when he first came to the Raptors. In year one, he doesn’t play much, and when he does, looks years away from being able to contribute. In year two, he’s a bit better, and like McGrady shows flashes of brilliance at times. The Raptors exercise their option on him, and finally in year 3 he breaks out.

However without DeRozan being a factor in year one, and without much financial room for the sweeping talent-upgrade the team needed, the Delfino-Marion-Evans trio only brings in a few more wins for Toronto, and Bosh eventually goes south.

Without Bosh, the team continues to be mired in mediocrity and although the Raptors hold DeRozan’s rights, he makes it known then when his contract is up, he too has his bags packed.

Yes, rather a doom and gloom scenario I realize.

But is it that unrealistic?

By all accounts DeRozan is an athletic marvel but a project nonetheless. I’m not sure anyone, the Raptors’ brass included, is counting on him to contribute much next year.

But therein lies the problem.

If Bryan Colangelo truly wants the best chance at keeping Chris Bosh, he not only will probably need to pony up a max contract, but he’ll also have to put together a squad that showed a lot more promise then that of last year. As I’ve discussed many-a-time, by not moving CB4 this off-season, he’s essentially loading up a one-year game of Russian roulette where simply returning to the playoffs, probably won’t be enough.

This team needs to show that it’s on track to compete with the best in the East and even if it’s not this year, it needs to be in the near future I’m guessing for Bosh’s sake.

So does adding DeRozan really help this situation?

It reminds me a bit of Houston trading Rudy Gay and parts on draft day for Shane Battier. At the time, this was viewed as a bad move by the Rockets to give up on a player of Gay’s star potential.

But here we are three years later, and the Rockets are still reaping the benefits of that deal. Gay might be a more dangerous offensive player, and a future all-star, but Houston recognized that Battier was a better fit for their club, and they wanted to start winning now, not in five years.

So this is my question; can Colangelo afford to gamble on "upside" with this pick?

The counter-point to all of this obviously is that perhaps DeRozan DOES have an impact next year, and perhaps Toronto walks away with the player who is eventually the best from this draft class, surpassing even Blake Griffin. And perhaps even if DeRozan doesn’t develop, BC’s next moves via free-agency, which arguably are going to have a much bigger on-court impact for next season, mean that Toronto doesn’t need to rely on Demar anyways, and he can develop at his own pace.

I guess my fear is just that you only get so many rolls of the dice.

So why not play the best odds each time instead of trying to come up with the one big score?

Well, perhaps it’s just not in BC’s nature.

ESPN.com on Friday actually had Colangelo ranked as the top GM in terms of "drafting prowess" in a comparison of NBA GM’s over the past 20 years.

And looking at his track record, he has come up huge on similar "athletic projects" like Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire.

(As a side note, it’s interesting that the Raptors have had the top two executives in the ESPN survey, Colangelo and Thomas, and also two of the bottom five in Jack McCloskey and Pete Babcock, who of course was helping out brother Rob.)

So maybe, for the man who ESPN.com quoted as saying \"At the end of the day, you also have to trust your gut," this is hardly a risky pick at all.

But that’s still not saying grabbing DeRozan is the right choice.

The argument could be made that instead of the typical, "drafting for need vs. drafting the best remaining talent on the board" options, Toronto should explore a third choice; drafting for skill sets. While drafting on upside has surely been a crapshoot (Shawne Williams) and so has drafting to fill a need (big man – Hoffa), the one thing that has panned out historically is grabbing a player with a discernible skill set that translates from college to the NBA (ie; rebounding, 3-point shooting, etc.)

It doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best prospect when all is said and done, but it might make a lot more sense than simply taking a flyer on someone to simply fill a position, or who offers upside. Suddenly under this theorem, players like DeJuan Blair (rebounding) and even Jeff Teague (ability to attack the basket) become much more valuable.

Looking at things this way, you’d have to say then that Gerald Henderson probably is the best play at nine. Yes he’s a wing with some upside, so fits both the "need and best player" suppositions, but he also excels at getting to the rim and defending on the perimeter, two skills that have shown time and time again to translate at the NBA level.

However when all is said and done, I do believe that if DeRozan is there at nine, he’ll be Colangelo’s choice rightly or wrongly. The Raptors’ PR crew informed us late last night that there will be no more workouts this week so it looks like Toronto is happy with the pool of players they’ve seen, and don’t expect the likes of Harden or Evans to be around when the Raptors draft.

Of course a lot can change over the next four days.

With trade rumours flying regarding teams like Washington and Minnesota, who knows how things will play out Thursday night, and the NBA’s "Green Room" List released at Draftexpress this morning is a testament to this uncertainty.

Do the Raptors think they’re cutting through a lot of this uncertainty and grabbing a fairly sure thing in DeRozan?

Perhaps.

But I’m sure if you talked to Denver’s management about their drafting of Nikoloz Tskitishvilli in 2002, they were probably saying the same thing…

FRANCHISE

PS – A huge win for Canada Basketball yesterday as the U16 Men’s Team thrashed Venezuela 106 to 81 to claim a bronze medal, and win a spot in the 2010 World Championship’s.

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