A little bit lost in the excitement of opening night Wednesday were the morning rumours that the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan were getting close to signing an extension, followed by the eventual confirmation just before game time. The specifics: four years, $40 million, with incentives built in that could push the total value over $46 million during the course of the deal.
Those numbers are staggering. DeMar is now making more money than Tim Duncan. Let that sink in for a second. The Republic made their views on a potential extension clear on Tuesday, and although I understand (and, to some extent, agree with) the sentiment behind the “wait and see” approach with DeMar no matter the contract terms, I wasn’t opposed to offering an extension as long as the numbers were reasonable for a player of his caliber.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. Brian Colangelo and the rest of the Raptors brass have made a bold statement with this deal – that they consider DeMar to be a cornerstone of this franchise, one that will be here for the foreseeable future, for better or worse, and while I do admire the loyalty they’re showing their core players with this signing, from an economic standpoint this one is more than a little perplexing.
Before I get into that, though, let me offer this disclaimer. I’m a big fan of DeMar. He’s proven to be a very useful scorer over his 3 years in the league and has shown enough flashes of dynamic athleticism that it can be argued he hasn’t quite reached his potential. On top of that, he’s been a great Raptor from an intangibles standpoint – someone who’s been great with fans and media, who seems committed to and invested in being part of the Raptors rebuilding process, and who’s clearly worked very hard to improve his game in the off-season. After the Vince/T-Mac sagas, it’s hard not to appreciate a guy like that.
That said, I really don’t like this extension. The upside of signing a young player to a deal like this is to essentially lock in an asset at a fixed price, with the hope that during the course of the contract the player outperforms its value. With DeMar, it was simple – the Raptors had the choice of extending him now, or letting him play out the year and negotiating in the offseason, when he would have been a restricted free agent and potentially sign a costly offer sheet.
If the Raptors were committed to matching DeMar’s offer sheet in the offseason, they were essentially rolling the dice that what they could negotiate now would be less than said deal. Basically, the economic argument for the extension is that Colangelo and the Raptors brass believe that signing a deal with DeMar now will end up saving them money if he has a breakout season this year.
That argument kind of goes out the window when you sign him to an extension of this value, though. By most accounts, DeMar’s best comparables in the league (in terms of production, not playing style) are scoring wings like OJ Mayo and Nick Young, and though it can be argued that he has more upside at this point in his career than both of them, this extension has him making as much as both of them combined annually.
Basically, let’s put it this way – the Raptors brass must think DeMar is going to have a hell of a year to justify $10 million per as a “discount.” I just find it hard to believe that he would command much more than that on the open market, even with plenty of teams with cap space throwing around offer sheets, and so it seems like the Raps have thrown away a year of hedging their bets with DeMar, waiting and seeing what kind of player they have, for potential savings of a couple of million dollars a year at most. For a team touting its cap flexibility going forward, this isn’t exactly the kind of move that inspires confidence in our management’s financial decisions. If any player on this team screamed “wait and see,” it was DeMar.
Colangelo explained in this interview with Eric Koreen that the market for these extensions was set earlier in the day, and that DeMar’s number is reasonable given the amount the other players in his class were making, but this argument doesn’t hold sway for me – it’s not like they were bidding against another organization, and using other team’s signings to justify your own is a bit of a sign of uncertainty in your own decision making, in my opinion. To use a parenting cliché, if the other GMs jumped of a cliff, Bryan, would you do that too?
On the bigger picture side, it also removes an asset from the Raptor’s trade toolbox that could have been used to bring in a more established wing player this season. Those Jose/DeMar/etc. for Gay or Iguodala rumours this summer feel like they were broken years ago. This contract certainly doesn’t make DeMar untradeable, by any stretch (again, someone was going to offer him $10 million this summer), but it does show that management feels like he’s a big part of the future and substantially lowers his value on the open market for a contender looking for a young, cheap scoring option this season. Basically, don’t expect any big trades from the Raptors this season besides a possible Jose move, as the team seems committed to this core group for the foreseeable future.
The bright side in all of this is that we do have a reasonably effective, young wing scorer locked up for the next four years, and that DeMar’s extension does still leave the Raptors with plenty of room under the cap after next summer. On its face though, it does seem like we could have signed a player who gives us a reasonable facsimile of what DeMar does on a nightly basis for a fraction of the cost (even with the “Canadian premium” that the Raptors pay to lure free agents), especially if T-Ross develops the way the team is hoping he does.
In many ways, though, this year just became an even bigger one than it was for DeMar pre-extension: if he’s really as committed to the team as it seems like he is, he’s going to have to raise his game a notch to not only increase his stature around the league, but also to protect the reputations of management, because early returns seem to suggest that this one might not have been Colangelo’s finest hour.
Thoughts? Post in the comments or tweet at me @garretthinchey.