The Toronto Raptors recently faced off against a familiar face in DeMar DeRozan, who led the Spurs to a surprise victory over the Raps.
DeRozan scored 10 points in the final 4:35 minutes of a tightly-contested game coupled with a big rebound that led to LaMarcus Aldridge’s go-ahead bucket with 30 seconds left on the clock that ultimately lifted the Spurs to a narrow 119-114 victory.
The former USC star notched a total of 27 points, five rebounds, and eight assists including a 3/4 shooting clip from beyond the arc in 36 minutes of action. Beyond his tallies, DeRozan found better fulfillment as he tormented the squad that abruptly shipped him away along with Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 draft asset in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green back in 2018.
On the opposite side of the court, the Raptors visibly struggled to make plays especially in crunch time against the Spurs. They have received vital contributions from a handful of their players led by Fred VanVleet who came out with a near double-double performance of 27 points and nine assists.
A couple of their swingmen headlined by OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher also provided a lift for the team. The former netted 10 points and six rebounds while the latter produced 22 points and 10 boards for the Raptors. However, their collaborative efforts ultimately went down the drain as the Raptors plummeted to their second-consecutive loss of the season.
In the early stages of the 2020-2021 season, it was evident that Toronto was running thin on their wing position. It looks like Nick Nurse’s team still hasn’t recuperated from Kawhi Leonard’s previous departure prior to their 2019-2020 campaign.
Although Pascal Siakam has already blossomed into a borderline All-Star last season, his emergence was still not enough to fill the huge void left by Leonard. He has yet to find the consistency to get the Raptors over the hump, given that he has length and athleticism which he could use to make a bigger impact on both ends of the floor.
Now with a gaping hole in one of their perimeter positions, the Raptors could try their luck and turn back to DeRozan in a bid to regain their title as postseason favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. In the 2019-2020 season, DeRozan is still averaging applaudable norms of 22.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists through 68 games played for the Spurs.
Although his numbers may have slightly dipped compared to his prime years with the Raptors, DeRozan is still the same smooth operator on the offensive end. In fact, he even showed flashes of improving his game as he now plays with a better pace and makes wiser decisions on the court as a tenured veteran in the league.
Being immersed in a squad that often moves the ball around like the Spurs eventually took the pressure off DeRozan’s shoulders in recent seasons and taught him how to feed off the energy of his teammates. His new role under head coach Gregg Popovich turned out to be different as compared with his days with the Raptors when he was expected to take over the majority of the scoring load for the team on a nightly basis.
However, DeRozan’s main man role with the Raptors didn’t turn out great as the team consistently made the playoffs but ultimately failed to overcome several of the LeBron James-led teams in previous seasons.
Despite not being his old self, DeRozan is still a capable scorer and will surely be an asset for every team in the league today. If the Raptors ever decide to bring him back at some point in the future, it will surely come at a price and will require the team to trade one of their core pieces in exchange for DeRozan’s services.
However, they can also take their time and wait as the veteran swingman is already poised to hit unrestricted free agency in the upcoming offseason. It will certainly be a decision to make for DeRozan whether or not to turn down an opportunity to help the squad that he once played for a total of nine seasons.
A more experienced DeMar DeRozan surrounded by a more cohesive Raptors unit could eventually do the trick for the Canadian squad to make noise in the playoffs once again given the right system and barring any injuries.
Nonetheless, the Raptors can bank on the fact that they haven’t completely burned the bridges with DeMar DeRozan and that he could still consider making a return to the team if they fail to manufacture a trade to acquire him this season.