Once again, we are going to hold off on writing our December version of State of the Squad for the Toronto Raptors. We’ve decided that we want to wait two or three more games and take an objective, comprehensive overview of the roster, free of speculation about tanking or trading or leverage. We look forward to doing that with a calculated, unemotional perspective.
But for now, we will be happy to speculate on moves we think are in the best interest of the Raptors. But no, it doesn’t involve the stat hating Rudy Gay. It does involve the guy we have referred to twice as “having some Tracy McGrady in him.” And we meant that about DeMar DeRozan.
So yes, it hurts us to say that we think it is time for the Toronto Raptors to trade DeRozan.
He has been the glimmer of hope in what looks like a disappointing season. Before the year, we predicted a coming out party for DeRozan as long as he played to his strengths (slashing and transition offense) and limited his weaknesses (long range shooting). He worked hard on his 3-point shot in the offseason and we felt that he would have plenty of looks with constant double teams on supposed centerpiece Jonas Valanciunas. We still weren’t keen on him DeRozan becoming a perimeter-oriented player and he hasn’t, but you cannot argue with the results. He is shooting 9 percent better than his previous career high from 3. He has taken the step we expected.
But with limited Raptors options, he also has to step out the door.
As we alluded to in our last column, GM Masai Ujiri has been in his evaluation process for a couple of months and there is no way that he likes what he sees. He has a potential franchise center who has wildly fluxuating minutes and scarce shots; an “elite” player who has hit half of his shot attempts only once this year and is trying to rid his locker room of such evidence of his inefficiency and, overall, a team that has an allergy to ball movement.
None of this equals a whole lot, which is why we see, for a team going nowhere, that DeRozan is the only reasonable trade option for the Raptors. They are going to continue to say all the right things about Jonas Valanciunas and his development. Even though they have hardly shown it with their offensive philosophies, Valanciunas is untouchable and they will continue to say this. They know what they have in Jonas and we assume they know there is no benefit to having him stand around and watch other players dominate the ball.
We have said before that it the Raptors started badly, Gay would be the natural trade target. This was contingent on two factors: That Gay would be good enough to elicit some interest; and that he would garner the biggest return. This is not the case. Gay is untradeable. His dismal shooting percentage and contract make him more of someone you are forced to take back in a trade rather than a centerpiece.
But with DeRozan, they have something. Again, as we have stressed in previous columns about potential trades, in a draft as loaded as the one in 2014, it is unrealistic to think that DeRozan could warrant a top pick. But he could fetch some young assets and clear room for Terrence Ross, who could prove to be DeRozan 2.0, although we are skeptical.
And DeRozan is frustrated. He is venting about hating to lose at home and has a right to be angry. It would be a shame to lose someone with the kind of passion that DeRozan does, but it is becoming obvious that the Raptors hands are tied. They need to be smart with any kind of valuable asset. In Toronto, there appear to be few.