Is Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan worthy of Max Deal? [Part 1 of 2]


A huge decision looms for Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri: what to do about DeMar DeRozan? We’ll look at the situation in detail in this 2-Part post.

This coming off-season the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan will see his team-friendly $9.5 million contract come to an end, assuming he does not use his player option which would see him paid well below market value money next year. The major question as DeRozan nears the end of his current deal is: what will DeRozan’s market value be as he enters free agency, and will the Raptors be willing to pay it?

The NBA’s maximum contract values are currently tiered based upon the number of years a player has been in the NBA, and the values of these maximum contracts are expected to increase drastically with the increase in the overall NBA salary cap. Projections have the middle tier, which DeRozan will be eligible for this coming offseason due to his number of years in the NBA, at $25.3 million dollars per season, per SportsNet. To put that value in context, Kobe Bryant is currently the highest paid player in NBA at $25 million per annum, and no player is contractually set to make more than that next season.

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When looking at DeMar DeRozan’s career numbers, it is clear that he has made major strides in his game year over year, and he is in the midst of the best season of his career statistically per Basketball Reference. Going into the short Christmas week break, DeRozan ranks 11th in the NBA in points per game, nestled between Anthony Davis and Dwyane Wade on the leaderboard. He also ranks third in free throws attempted, only ranking behind James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins in that statistical category. These traditional statistics partially indicate DeRozan’s value to the Raptors, and a couple of “newer” advanced statistics further support his value to the team. DeRozan has the 25th highest usage rate in the NBA at 28.6% of possessions. At this usage rate, DeRozan has achieved top 40 rankings in Player Efficiency Ranking (40th), Value Over Replacement Player (35th), and Win Shares (17th). These values, especially DeRozan’s Win Shares placing would surely indicate he is an elite player worthy of a large, if not Max, contract.

Some statistics, both common and advanced, project a somewhat less positive view of DeMar DeRozan as an elite NBA player. His field goal percentage (.446) ranks 194th in the NBA, and his 3 point field goal percentage (.250) is even worse, ranking 271st in the NBA. His effective field goal (.456) and True Shooting percentage (.541) also both rank outside of the top 150 players in the NBA. This lack of efficiency leads to his Win Shares per 48 minutes also placing much lower than his unadjusted Win Shares, at 63rd in the NBA.

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What these statistics would suggest is that DeRozan’s production simply results from his extremely high level of usage, not his actual efficiency as a leading offensive option. When looking at players with similar minutes played and offensive usage percentages, DeRozan’s PER is better than only an aging and inefficient Kobe Bryant, John Wall, who is amidst arguably his worst season in the NBA, and Carmelo Anthony, who is surrounded by former D-Leaguers in New York and therefore has a similarly inefficient stat-line.

to be continued…