DeMar DeRozan’s textbook contract year is officially complete.
The Raptors have agreed to re-sign unrestricted free agent DeRozan to a five-year, $139 million contract, according to USA Today Sports and Yahoo Sports. The two-time All-Star shooting guard averaged a career-high 23.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 4 APG last season while helping guide Toronto to a franchise-best 56 wins and its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Although DeRozan, 26, has enough serious shortcomings—perimeter shooting, playmaking for others, defensive consistency—to be kept firmly out of the “superstar” conversation, his timing and value maximization proved to be flawless this season. Let DeRozan’s 2015–16 season stand as a blueprint for all aspiring max candidates: good health + huge minutes + career-highs in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating and free throw attempts + All-Star selection + strong relationship with fan base + prime years + team success + exciting (and long-awaited) postseason run = buckets and buckets of cash as soon as free agency opens. It’s a simple formula, really.
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri stopped short of giving DeRozan a full max (around $152 million), but he did utilize his ability to offer DeRozan a fifth year, something outside suitors couldn’t. The result is a fairly clean win/win for a franchise that felt it couldn’t lose a player who has grown with the organization over the course of seven years: Ujiri got roughly $13 million in savings while DeRozan received $26 million more total than he could from outside suitors that were limited to four-year offers.
In a vacuum, these contract terms are enough to make one swallow and squirm. The average annual value of DeRozan’s new deal ($27.8M) is roughly triple that of his previous contract, and it’s difficult to imagine that he surpasses his 2015–16 production by a meaningful amount at any time over the next half-decade.
There are, however, a few reasonable justifications for Ujiri’s expenditure:
One: DeRozan will return to a defined role on a deep and balanced roster so this isn’t a case of a flawed player being forced to do more than he can handle to live up to his cap figure.
Two: Toronto has waited 20+ years for this type of success and losing DeRozan, a central player, at this peak would be crushing.
Three: The East’s landscape is unlikely to radically change this summer, a fact that reinforces the idea that Toronto should keep the band together and make the most of its current window.
Four: The five-year term, while the longest currently allowed by league rules, only carries DeRozan to age 31, so he should be a contributing player throughout the deal’s duration.
Five: Ujiri has shown a knack for moving big-salaried, polarizing players in the past and DeRozan’s contract should be a liquid piece if Toronto’s window happens to close abruptly in a year or two.
Add that all up, and this looks like a classic “They had to do it” agreement. On the bright side, DeRozan largely earned his money, even though he struggled mightily at times during the postseason, and he certainly could have used his leverage to push harder for a full max. On the downside, DeRozan is set to become one of the league’s highest-paid players just a few months after he shot below 41% in 10 of his first 11 playoff games and during an era in which his most glaring weakness, three-point shooting, gets more glaring by the year.
From Toronto’s perspective, this deal is worthy of relief, but not really celebration. DeRozan, meanwhile, can get on with the bottle popping.