This is part one of an ongoing series at Armchair 3 that will break down the extensions given to the draft class of 2009 — and even some extensions that weren’t given — before the Halloween deadline. In our first installment, I examine the Toronto Raptors’ four-year, $40 million extension of DeMar DeRozan, which could reach $42 million with incentives.
I’ve been high on DeMar DeRozan for some time. By March 2009, if you hadn’t heard of USC’s stellar freshman, you did in the Pac-10 Tournament. He earned Most Outstanding Player honors after leading the Pac-10’s sixth seed past California, UCLA and the James Harden-led Arizona State Sun Devils, three of the conference’s top four teams that year, to secure an NCAA Tournament berth for he and Taj Gibson’s Trojans. And with the pressure the highest in that championship game, DeRozan dropped a career-high 25 on 10-16 shooting.
DeRozan declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman year and was selected ninth overall, one spot before Brandon Jennings (ouch), by Toronto. One of DeRozan’s initial scouting reports, published by a favorite of mine in DraftExpress, called the USC product a “blank canvas,” citing his freakish athleticism but lack of finesse, as he wasn’t a great outside shooter, had shaky ball-handling skills, etc. At the worst, I saw DeRozan developing into a nice slasher, ala a Larry Hughes or Gerald Wallace, who brought energy to both ends of the floor but wasn’t someone defenders had to crowd outside the 3-point arc. Of course, the Raptors wanted a superstar with such a high selection, and they’re just not getting one.
To be fair to DeRozan, he hasn’t ever played on a good team, never making the playoffs in his first three full years. And he’s, until this year, never really played with an above-average point guard; the Raptors new, exciting (yeah, really exciting) offense gives Kyle Lowry the reins and turns Jose Calderon moreso into an outside shooting threat.
But DeRozan’s shooting percentages (50, 47, 42) have regressed each of his first three full years, and his 3-point percentage, a career 20% from long distance, is another level of bad. Despite showing flashes at USC, DeRozan’s a career 3.4 rebound per game guy, and his assists per game average, 1.5, is barely higher than his turnover average, 1.48. He’s a career 14.3 points per game scorer, and with the league’s salary cap set at $58 million in 2012-13, you really need more from a $10-million-a-year guy.
So $40 million over four years seems like a stretch for DeRozan, especially for a Raptors team that’s finally about to dump Jose Calderon’s terrible $10.5 million annual deal at the end of the season yet still has $33 million locked up in Andrea Bargnani over the next three years. But that’s the price Toronto, hardly a free agent destination on the minds of many veterans, probably has to pay to attract bigger names.
One sticking point that keeps me from being too critical: To his credit, DeRozan is off to a laser start this season, averaging 20.7 points a night, No. 10 in the NBA, and he’s also currently ranked ninth in free throw makes (35) and attempts (45); he’s a lifetime 80% shooter from the stripe. If the Raptors, led now by Lowry and DeRozan, can keep this kind of play up, this could very well be a playoff team in a few years … with a core to build around.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.