Just before the July Moratorium started, there was a fairly solid rumor that the Raptors were willing to send their young shooting guard DeMar DeRozan to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and that DeRozan could be available in the right deal to anyone. That is a long ways from actually shopping DeRozan around the league. The Raptors needed a backup point guard and were looking to improve on defense. Bledsoe met the tests on both counts. The Clippers ended up making a three-team deal that netted them J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley and the DeRozan rumors quieted down.
After that, the best DeRozan trade rumor came from a fake Adrian Wojnarowski twitter account that caused a stir for a few minutes.
Fake acct RT @WojNBAYahoo_: Raptors have traded DeMar DeRozan and Steve Novak to Oklohoma City in exchange for Kendrick Perkins and picks
— Tammeh. (@TammehNBA) July 4, 2013
It didn’t take long before everyone figured out that rumor wasn’t real. First off, the trade math wasn’t even close and second, that would have been a very lopsided deal. However, the trade would have netted the Raptors the kind of tough guy Head Coach Dwane Casey has been asking for. Give the fake account holder his five minutes of fame. He caught a lot of people’s attention before he was shut down. Thanks to TammehNBA for preserving the tweet.
On Sunday morning, however, a couple of sources went from saying DeRozan might be available in the right deal to the Raptors are actually shopping him. There is a caveat, this could be just scuttlebutt, but these were sources that are usually in the know and that’s what happens when a team is this quiet during free agency. Every rumor gets magnified and everyone grasps for any piece of information that might prove to be reliable.
It does make sense that the Raptors could actually be shopping DeRozan. He is one of their best trade assets and if Terrence Ross or Landry Fields have been looking good in practice over the past month, the Raptors might just feel comfortable enough to move their starter of the past four seasons.
DeRozan was drafted by former President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo ninth overall in 2009 as an offensive wing player that he could insert into the Raptors starting lineup and develop into an effective scorer. Colangelo wasn’t wrong. DeRozan averaged 17.2 points per game in his second season and has maintained that average since then. However, the Raptors issues have been on defense and that’s why Casey was hired.
Defense has never been DeRozan’s strong suit. As a rookie, it was so bad that about the only way he stopped opposing wing players from scoring was when they stopped picking on him. He did improve defensively as a sophomore and made a big jump under Casey two seasons ago. However, last season, DeRozan took a step back.
“DeMar especially, I thought he took a half a step back defensively this year whereas the first year he was doing a heck of a job growing as a defensive player,” Casey said. “Right, wrong or indifferent, he or Rudy [Gay] will be guarding the best perimeter player on the other team, so they got to give us something defensively as well as offensively. That is going to be very important for us to make sure we focus on that this summer.”
To keep everything in context, Casey has continued to voice support for the 23-year-old shooting guard.
“I still hang my hat on the growth of DeMar DeRozan,” Casey said.
However, there is more than one way to improve the Raptors perimeter defense, upgrade their defense overall and maintain their scoring. Nothing Casey has been saying is inconsistent with shopping DeRozan, if the Raptors don’t believe his defensive potential has been improving since the end of last season.
Rumors about the Raptors actively shopping DeRozan are still a little soft, but they are only going to get louder if something else more concrete doesn’t happen involving Toronto soon. Casey has made his case for dramatically improving the Raptors defensively. It is not all that hard to envision the team accomplishing that goal by trading DeRozan.
Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre since 2009. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.