If DeMar DeRozan leaves Toronto he will be making a huge mistake.
Let’s get this straight. DeRozan is in for a big pay day no matter where he chooses to sign. The 26 year-old guard is averaging 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game on 44% shooting. He has started all 45 games so far and is as dynamic a scorer as they come in the league. DeRozan is recognized across the NBA for his ability to draw contact and get to the line. He currently averages 8.1 free throw attempts a game, good for third best among players, and converts 84.4% of the time from the charity stripe.
Toronto has an outstanding backcourt combination led by DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (20.9 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.0 rpg). Jonas Valanciunas, despite missing a lot of time, is still averaging 12.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Even DeMarre Carroll has missed 22 games but is still playing well when on the court. Adding in players like Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross and Luis Scola has really solidified the Toronto rotation every night.
Toronto is in the win-now mindset and has recently surged to 30-15, 2 games back of Cleveland for the #1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has won nine games in a row and 11 of 13, suggesting they have no plans to slow down. They are the fourth best team defensively in terms of opponents points per game at 96.6 and have the fifth best point differential in the NBA at +4.7. Is it time to consider Toronto one of the best teams in the NBA? Yes.
What separates Toronto in the near future from other contenders is their accumulation of draft picks. Everybody talks about Danny Ainge’s treasure trove, but what about Toronto’s? GM Masai Ujiri has accumulated four potential first round picks in the next two drafts to add young talent to an already impressive roster. Toronto will pick twice in 2016 thanks to New York, a likely lottery-bound team. ESPN’s Chad Ford recent mock draft has Toronto selecting California’s Ivan Rabb at number 11 if the draft were to take place today. Toronto needs a good power forward and Rabb would be the ideal solution. The team also has their own pick later in the draft with a chance to add two elite players to their rotation.
In 2017, Toronto will have their own pick as well as the Los Angeles Clippers pick (top-14 protected). Since Los Angeles will likely make the playoffs next season, Toronto should have two more picks to further add talent. If the pick doesn’t convey in 2017, it is also top-14 protected in 2018 and 2019 before turning into second round picks.
While Toronto has set itself up nicely in case DeRozan decides to leave Canada, DeRozan would be making a horrible decision to leave a very bright future. Leaving Toronto (a contending team) would make sense if their window were about to close or if DeRozan was unhappy with his role. Yet Toronto has positioned itself to contend for years to come thanks to their current rotation plus four first round picks on the way. DeRozan is the top option on a very good team and it would be a shame to see him end up in another location. Since DeRozan is due under $10 million in 2016-2017, he will likely opt out of his contract. However, he should work quickly to re-sign with Toronto before making a decision that will hurt both himself and the Toronto organization.