||10-04-2012 05:01 PM
Raptors allow DeMar DeRozan to determine his own value
HALIFAX — Bryan Colangelo would rather his players never reached free agency.
He said as much Wednesday, during the second day of Toronto Raptors training camp in unseasonably warm, preposterously sunny Halifax. He would prefer if his players did not have to consider their contractual status. He would rather assess a player’s value than allow another team that right.
But sometimes it is necessary for the player to set his market value. Meet your new reality, DeMar DeRozan.
“I do believe that this is the time when he will emerge,” Colangelo, the Raptors president and general manager, said. “Going into his fourth season, he has a chance to get a little bit more respect from the officials and the people that he’s playing against. This is that year. This is that year, a make-or-break year as far as taking that step, taking that giant step forward.”
Colangelo has spoken with Aaron Goodwin, DeRozan’s agent, about a contract extension. If the Raptors do not come to terms with DeRozan before the end of the month, he will become a restricted free agent after the season. So far, Blake Griffin is the only member of DeRozan’s draft class to lock into a long-term contract with his team. So DeRozan is not alone.
The shooting guard has developed into a decent scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game two seasons ago and 16.7 points last season. But advanced statistics reflect unfavourably on his body of work. His player efficiency rating has been below average in each of his first three seasons, and that is mostly a portrayal of a player’s offensive skills. DeRozan has not been able to turn his athletic gifts into defensive excellence — not that he has been surrounded by the Bad Boys-era Pistons or anything. At this stage, DeRozan is very good at getting to the free-throw line. Everything else is uncertain.
When Colangelo says this is DeRozan’s year to establish himself, he means the player must turn his skill set into a more productive, efficient package. To push DeRozan to that end, as well as shore up the wing spots, the Raptors drafted Terrence Ross and signed restricted free agent Landry Fields. It could be easily argued that both players’ ideal position is shooting guard, DeRozan’s spot.
“I didn’t have any reaction to it,” DeRozan said of the moves. “I was happy we had a great addition of players. Me? It doesn’t worry me at all. I know what I got to go out there and do. I know what my job is every time I go out there on the court. If I do that, I’ll be fine.”
DeRozan speaks the truth on that count, especially if he becomes a restricted free agent. In his fourth year last season, Portland swingman Nicolas Batum bumped his three-point accuracy from 35% to 39%, maintained his stellar free-throw accuracy and better honed his length and athleticism in the name of defence. Minnesota gave him a four-year, US$46.5-million offer sheet, which Portland eventually matched.
Meanwhile, Memphis guard O.J. Mayo more or less stagnated in his fourth season. The Grizzlies, facing problems with the luxury tax, renounced his rights. As an unrestricted free agent, Mayo signed in Dallas for just more than US$8-million over two years. To be sure, that is a livable wage, but not the type of deal Mayo would have been shooting for heading into last year. Impending free agency is a risky proposition.
As of now, it makes sense for the Raptors to wait and let DeRozan show them his level.
“We already have a good player,” Colangelo said. “The question is what value is dictated by the market. Yeah, there is the risk that his value goes up [if he is not signed before Oct. 31] and the value of that contract would be more. That would be something that we would have to take into account. At the same time, there would be more certainty … at that point.”
The Raptors have the leverage in negotiations now, but DeRozan could wrest that from the team by making the most of this season.
Last year, the lockout meant DeRozan could not form a summertime bond with his new coach, Dwane Casey. A shortened pre-season and an injury to Andrea Bargnani meant DeRozan was foisted into a primary role, probably before his play merited it. If Bargnani is healthy and Kyle Lowry blossoms in Toronto, DeRozan will become more of a secondary option. In theory, that should allow him to focus on attacking the rim, and shed some of the long two-point jumpers from his repertoire. That, plus an emergence on defence, could give DeRozan the track record necessary to ask for Batum-like money.
“If you do everything you’re supposed to do, you improve and you get better, everything will stand for itself,” DeRozan said. “You don’t want to be somebody who wants a contract but you’re not doing what you need to do on the court or in the gym, late at night.”
DeRozan is on message. Now his play must be on point.