DeMar DeRozan’s alive at the right time
Do you care about how the salary cap works? Me neither. When it became socially acceptable for Enes Kanter to make $16M a season, I figured it was time to retire myself from the salary cap writing aspect of my distinguished blogging career. See, there’s a time and place for everything. There was a time where we all wanted to avoid having an Andrea Bargnani or Hedo Turkoglu situation on our hands, for fear it might hamstring the franchise into trying to hilariously build a team around Andrea Bargnani or Hedo Turkoglu. Then there were the mid-level disasters of Jason Kapono, Jarrett Jack and Linas Kleiza, where every shot they missed, reminded us of how much a dead weight they were, and how we were stuck with them.
Stuck doesn’t seem to be part of the NBA vocabulary anymore, as evidenced by a team willing to accept the lumbering lard that is Raymond Felton as part of a trade. The Felton trade was a tipping point, arguably one of many, which symbolized that no matter what your gut-to-height ratio is, you’re movable, if not physically, then through a league transaction.
This leads us to DeMar DeRozan. Hang on a minute, though, I want to make sure I’m in no way comparing DeMar DeRozan to Raymond Felton. The only way they’re similar is that they both were involved with Nicki Minaj (they weren’t, that’s how rumours start).
The question at hand is about DeMar DeRozan’s looming max contract. My feelings on that have gone from fear, to resignation, to acceptance, to downright apathy. DeRozan has shown enough (and certainly more than Enes Kanter) to warrant being paid $26M per season. The number sounds ridiculous in absolute terms, but when you compare it to what others are making, it’s nothing but market value and that value is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the beholder will be the Raptors who don’t want to lose a hard-working model citizen who also happens to be a pretty good basketball player. What should put you at ease is that the Raptors won’t be the only ones doing the beholding, and a team like the Lakers who have a giant hole at off-guard, will surely be interested.
The market for a guy like DeRozan next summer will be wide and deep, and will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. His three-point shooting has gone from a 32A to a noticeable 34B, and if it ever managed to get to a C-cup, we’re in business. His next deal, though it’ll never equal the bargain value of this current one, is justifiable in the crazy world of the NBA where Roy Hibbert is making $16 million and would like to get a raise. Bottom line is that a max-deal for DeRozan has virtually no chance to hamstring the franchise.
This week also saw some “stories” break about how DeRozan will opt-out of his contract. This was covered widely by click-whoring websites (we’re not one of them, I swear, Blake would kill me) to full effect for no apparent reason since the most logical answer to a question of “Will DeRozan opt-out?” is “No shit?”.
Think about it. If he doesn’t opt-out next summer, he’ll be getting paid less than Terrence Ross. Let that sink in. He’ll be getting paid less than Terrence Ross. I’m already surprised DeRozan has shown the restraint of not walking up to Masai Ujiri’s office and demand that his contract be voided and re-written so that he gets twice what Ross is making, because anything less hints at a broken universe. You expect him to opt-out in much the same manner as LeBron James in Cleveland, purely due to the formality that gets in the way of getting that number the market says you deserve. I’m not too worried about losing DeRozan because it looks like him and Lowry have a thing going on, and remember that one of the main reasons Lowry stuck around was because of DeRozan, and you expect the reverse to be true as well.
Need to win more close games
Moving on, hey look, I can use Excel:
What does that thing say? Nothing, except that the Raptors have only been blown out three times this year, while administering a beating far more often. The concerning thing is that they’ve lost a lot of close games, which you can look at from two angles. They’re in close games so that’s great, but they’re also losing close games against teams that they should finish off, e.g., Denver, New York, Sacramento, Orlando. Combine this with recent findings that they tend to be worse in the clutch when playing from behind might suggest that nerves and indiscipline creeps into their play. Keep an eye on it, though I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about yet.
Landry Fields isn’t in the league
Landry Fields isn’t in the league. This after a promising start to his NBA career which was derailed by the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, whose arrival in New York was the catalyst that led to Fields’ statistical decline. He’s gone from playing under the lights of Madison Square Garden, to earning a big deal, to being unemployed. The last update was in September when he had surgery on his hip, sidelining him for five months, which are up at the end of January. You might recall that he was the winner in the Steve Nash to Lakers deal (well, other than Nash who basically stole $36 million) when Bryan Colangelo tried to freeze the Knicks by offering Fields a back-loaded poison pill deal so they couldn’t pursue Nash. Turned out that Nash was just using the Raptors to get himself a better deal, and in the process made Fields a legit millionaire.
Cory Joseph’s better on the road
Now that DeMarre Carroll is out, Cory Joseph is our marquee off-season signing and it’s safe to say he’s exceeded expectations by simply not being Greivis Vasquez. An interesting stat that I came across was that he’s shooting way better on the road than at home – 47% compared to 41%. This is quite different than Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan, or most Raptors for that matter. Maybe he tends to tighten up when playing in front of the home crowd due to being Canadian and all, or whether his Pickering crew is a bit too chatty during the game, but the sample size of 39 games suggests that there’s something there.
Delon Wright’s D-League Stint
Delon Wright’s been lighting up the D-League. In 10 games, he’s averaging 17.9 points, 7 assists and 1.6 steals with the Raptors 905. He’s got to be encouraged by the precedent set by his teammate, Cory Joseph, in going to the D-League (after he asked Pop to go) to hone his PG skills, and coming back NBA-ready. Joseph played 26 games for Austin in the 2012-13 season averaging 19.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.9 steals before earning the call up. The difference in Wright’s situation is that Joseph has firmly secured the backup PG spot, meaning that Wright has to find his minutes at the backup off-guard, and Dwane Casey’s requirement for that is three-point shooting which Ross has brought. Wright is shooting 36% in the D-League (stats) from three which is pretty respectable, and you’d think once he matures, we’ll see some strong competition between him and Ross for minutes down the road.