Over his six-year career with the Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan has morphed from the rookie with no jump shot to an NBA All-Star, and, quite frankly, one of the franchise's most dynamic players of all time.
However, as Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports, it is not all rainbows and butterflies beneath the surface in regard to the relationship between player and team. Rumours began flying last week that DeRozan will decline his player option at the end of the 2015-16 season and seek a max deal of around $25 million with the new salary cap.
So, the question becomes, is the 25-year-old worth that type of contract, and furthermore, is he even a good fit to have on the team moving forward? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of keeping DeMar Darnell DeRozan:
As mentioned, DeRozan arrived in Toronto from USC as a very raw player. The athleticism was never questioned, but his shooting touch was suspect to say the least. In his first season as a pro, he averaged 8.6 points per game. Once Chris Bosh migrated to Miami, DeRozan doubled his scoring output and began to take off. That improvement culminated with an all-star berth in 2013-14.
Following up that sensational season this year, DeRozan finished in the top 20 in scoring with better than 20 points per game. It's safe to say that every other guy on that list is worth a max contract, aside from Kevin Martin. There simply aren't that many NBA players that can consistently give you that scoring punch night in and night out.
And where do a good chunk of those points come from? The free-throw line, which is what makes him an even more valuable asset. Not only does attacking the rim put opposing teams in foul trouble, it also allows you to set up your defence for the next possession, and we all know how much head coach Dwane Casey loves his defence.
That explosiveness and willingness to draw contact would seem to correlate with injuries, but DeRozan has remained surprisingly healthy over his career, playing at least 60 games (plus playoffs) in each of his six years. He has suited up for all 82 contests on two occasions and the only major injury he has suffered was the groin issue that sidelined him this past season.
Finally, DeRozan's personality, work ethic, and family-oriented approach have won him a place in the hearts of Raptors fans, coaches and teammates alike - most notably point guard Kyle Lowry. The relationship between Lowry and Rudy Gay was widely documented during the latter's time north of the border, but DeRozan and Lowry have developed into true bffs. If Lowry is indeed here for the long haul, would it not make sense to keep Batman and Robin together?
OK, now for the negativity.
Remember all those points DeRozan puts up? Well, of the 19 other players in that top 20 scorers list, only Kobe Bryant had a lower field-goal percentage, and he only appeared in 35 games in 2014-15. The truth of the matter is DeRozan is a volume jump shooter who does not have a reliable three-point stroke. Most of his shot attempts come from the statistically dreadful midrange area, which will likely keep him in the low-to-mid 40 percent region.
Despite his improvement, DeRozan is not a true NBA superstar, and despite his work ethic, may never become one. How much growth does he realistically have left in his game? In terms of statistical comparables, Tyreke Evans comes to mind. Here are the numbers from the past year.
As we can see, DeRozan had the edge in points, turnovers, free-throw attempts and percentage while Evans was the better shooter from the field, rebounder and facilitator. Steals, blocks and three-point percentage were pretty much a wash. In terms of net rating, DeRozan was a 2.6 compared to Evans's 2.2. Would you pay Evans a max contract? Didn't think so.
Finally, if the Raptors do decide to let their starting shooting guard walk, there seem to be a number of suitable options to fill the void. We all know by now that Kevin Durant is the biggest name of the 2016 free agent class, but the talent pool is deep. Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Bradley Beal all come off the books just to name a few.
As of right now, Toronto has cap flexibility with only Lowry and Patrick Patterson under contract after this coming season. (They could also refuse to extend qualifying offers Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross and decline the team options on Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira.) Doling out a max contract to DeRozan would put a dent in that flexibility.
So there you have it, the case has been presented. How do you see DeRozan fitting in with the team in the coming years? Do you think he is worth a max deal?