DeMar DeRozan is having a career year for a strong Toronto Raptors team that currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference. However, DeRozan is set to opt out of his contract after this season to take advantage of the salary cap bump, and ESPN's Zach Lowe reports that DeRozan's hometown Los Angeles Lakers, among other teams, are prepared to offer the swingman a maximum contract starting at $25 million per season.
Of course, the Raptors can offer that type of contract, plus a fifth year that other teams can't give him. DeRozan has played his entire seven-year NBA career in Toronto, developed a strong rapport with point guard Kyle Lowry and expressed his desire to stick with this core group of players. A recent report from the New York Post reiterated that DeRozan feels loyalty towards the organization.
But it's all-too-common to hear that sentiment only for the player in question to go elsewhere, so nothing should be ruled out. Will DeRozan look to take his talents to a new city this summer?
Why it would make sense for DeRozan to stay in Toronto
The Raptors are an excellent team with a relatively young core that can still grow together. Lowry and DeMarre Carroll are both approaching 30 years old, but DeRozan is just 26 and a host of other players are 24 or younger. Luis Scola is the only key rotation player over 30. Toronto is the only other Eastern Conference team besides the Cleveland Cavaliers that's currently top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, so an argument can be made that it's the top challenger to the Cavaliers in an East that's improved overall, but still lacking when it comes to elite teams.
With DeRozan, Lowry and Carroll all in their primes and improving young players to supplement them, this is a team that could contend in the East for the next few years, especially if more moves are made on the fringes to augment the talent that's already in place. Given that DeRozan has that aforementioned comfort level in Toronto and is in the middle of a career season, it makes sense for him to stick around.
Why it would make sense for DeRozan to leave Toronto
Staying in Toronto offers plenty of perks, but DeRozan may look to get a fresh start with a new team if the Raptors flame out once again the postseason. He could look to do it regardless, but another playoff failure could make that urge even greater. The potential threat of Lowry leaving in the summer of 2017 could also play a factor.
Going to a team like the Lakers wouldn't seem to make much sense given how far away they look from contention, but taking the reins from Kobe Bryant and being "The Man" in his hometown alongside their young core could be appealing. And even if it's not Los Angeles, there will likely be other teams with promising situations that will come knocking in free agency.
There's also the outside possibility the Raptors don't extend the max contract DeRozan is seeking and they either try to get him to sign at a discount or try to replace him with the cap space created by him walking. They may think they will be fine elevating Terrence Ross and replacing DeRozan's production by committee. But given DeRozan's improvements this year, that seems to be an unlikely scenario at this point.
Likelihood of DeRozan staying
Lowe reports that the status quo is the best bet of how things will play out, and it's perfectly logical. DeRozan is a quality young player on a quality young team, and as long as the Raptors are willing to pay up, expect him to take their money. Never say never when it comes to him leaving, but I give it a 7/10 chance of him re-signing him Toronto.
* * *
SB Nation presents: DeMar DeRozan throws down on 7'2 Rudy Gobert