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They say if you love something, set it free…and if it returns then it was meant to be. The bitter-sweet end of the DeMar DeRozan era in Toronto was a tough moment for Raptors fans. DeRozan was selected ninth overall by the Raptors back in 2019 and had spent nine years with the Raptors before the infamous trade that sent him to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. Heartbroken Raptors fans would no longer be able to see the dynamic duo of DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who had both hoped to bring a championship to Toronto together. But what if there was a possibility that the two could be reunited again?
With free agency set to begin on August 2 2021 , DeMar DeRozan is set to test the free agent market for the first time since 2017. The dynamic scorer and former All-Star will have the chance to dictate his path moving into the later stages of his career as one of the top available free agents on the market right now.
With his partner in crime Kyle Lowry also set to be a free agent, what are the chances that we could see a reunion between DeRozan and the Raptors for the upcoming 2021-22 season? Let’s break down the possibilities of seeing DeRozan in a Raptors uniform again:
DeRozan’s Current Status
As it looks right now with DeRozan’s current contract status, he just concluded the final year of his five year / $139 million contract he signed back with the Raptors in the 2016 offseason. With an average annual salary of about $27.8 million, DeRozan is set to be an unrestricted free agent and will be looking for a similar salary from teams this summer.
According to reports, DeRozan plans to have a “wide open” approach to free agency after spending the last three years with San Antonio. With the Spurs in 2021, DeRozan averaged 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, a career-high 6.9 assists and a 49.5 per cent field goal percentage. Over the course of the season, DeRozan played at an all-star level and although he did well to fill the place of Kawhi Leonard as the Spurs’ main scoring option, the overall success of the Spurs was unsatisfactory, missing the playoffs consecutively in 2020 and 2021.
DeRozan played more of a small-ball power forward role with the Spurs and adapted well to the change from shooting guard. He utilized his ball-handling ability, explosiveness and facilitating ability to succeed against slower players in the forward position. Teams will likely have more interest in DeRozan with playmaking forwards becoming coveted assets in the league with the slower move towards small ball lineups.
DeRozan’s Free Agency Options
Contending teams will try create cap space this off-season in order to sign free agents like DeMar DeRozan. As one of the top free agents in this year’s free agent class, DeRozan has control to decide which team he can play with. He will most likely want to go to an immediate contending team to try and compete for the missing championship he desires.
There is no question there will be interest around the league for DeRozan. Along with the Raptors, we can look at some potential teams that might have an interest in offering DeRozan a hefty contract this offseason:
The Mavericks have shown they are an up-and-coming team in the Western Conference. With Tim Hardaway Jr. also entering free agency, Dallas is projected to open up an estimated cap space of up to $35.3 million. The Mavericks could make a push to sign DeRozan, who can become a secondary wing option alongside Luka Doncic to significantly bolster the Mavs’ starting lineup. With an early playoff exit this post-season and the many organizational changes, the Mavs are definitely a potential team who could look to DeRozan for playoff experience and to take some pressure off Doncic down the stretch.
The Grizzlies are another up-and-coming team led by Ja Morant looking to further improve on a successful 2021 season. The Grizzlies made the playoffs for the first time in three years and had many moments that showed the future potential of the team. Memphis lacks a legitimate wing player who can be a consistent scoring option, making DeRozan and ideal fit for this position. He can also potentially rejoin former teammate Jonas Valanciunas and help the Grizzlies rise up the standings in the Western Conference.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks made some noise in the Eastern Conference this year as one of the most improved teams. Thanks to Julius Randle and Coach Tom Thibodeau, New York is on the map and could be a potential landing spot for DeRozan if he wants to come back to the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have young talent in RJ Barrett who can learn from DeRozan. DeRozan can also provide more scoring options for the Knicks and more experience. In a big market like New York City and with lots of cap space to sign a big free agent, DeRozan could thrive and help push the Knicks to the next level in the East.
DeRozan and the Raptors
Last but certainly not least, we have to remember the Toronto Raptors as a potential landing spot for DeRozan to return. DeRozan could bring an immediate impact to the Raptors that are searching for more depth at the wing position. DeRozan is already familiar with the city, the Raptors organization and has established chemistry with some of his former young protégés that have grown up to become stars on the team.
The Raptors would also get a highly competent scorer, who can take over down the stretch of games, which is something they could use. DeRozan’s ability to handle the ball and create for others would be beneficial to the Raptors adding more depth at the wing position. DeRozan could be the missing piece that the Raptors need to bring them back to contention in the Eastern Conference.
What is the Likelihood?
Is there a chance that DeMar DeRozan makes a return to the Toronto Raptors this summer? DeRozan would certainly fit in Toronto’s roster and of course Raptor fans would welcome him back with open arms. However, it is fairly unlikely he will wear a Raptors uniform next season.
Many factors come into play with the Raptors decisions this offseason and DeMar DeRozan may not be a high priority on their list. The Raptors recently secured the 4th spot in the draft and could use that pick to acquire younger talent to add to their young core. Although DeRozan is only 32 and in the later prime of his career, the Raptors may not want to invest in DeRozan if they are building around their young core of Siakam, VanVleet and Anunoby.
On DeRozan’s end as well, the bridge may have already been burned from the infamous trade. DeRozan took the trade pretty hard and may not want to come back to Toronto after watching his former team win a championship without him.
We also can’t forget the impact of Kyle Lowry and his free agency decision. There’s no denying the chemistry and frienship of DeRozan and Lowry, who both definitely impact each other’s decisions in the process. DeRozan and Lowry are both free agents this summer, and if the Raptors want DeMar back, they will definitely need to have Lowry resigned as well. With the current salary cap situation and the high price for both these talented free agents, the Raptors will have a hard time being able to afford both, but it is not a complete write off.
It would be an amazing reunion for Lowry and DeRozan to play alongside one another again in Toronto. No matter what happens, if he decides to return or go to another contending team this offseason, Raptors fans will never forget what DeRozan has done for the Raptors organization.