Will DeMar DeRozan continue to be an integral part of this team in 2013-14, or are his days as a member of the Toronto Raptors numbered?
On October 31, 2012, former Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo signed DeRozan to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million.
It was an odd move to make at the time, considering the fact that DeRozan was going to become a restricted free agent that summer, allowing the Raptors to match any offer that would come his way. Not a lot of teams were expected to bid for his services, and if they did, it would be because he had a successful season, further justifying a hefty extension.
Instead, Colangelo decided to bid against himself and jump the gun with his offer.
Would new general manager and reigning NBA executive of the year Masai Ujiri extend that same offer under similar circumstances? It's hard to say.
Ujiri has a great mind for basketball, as evident by his structuring of the Denver Nuggets roster and his role in helping maintain their level of success in a Carmelo Anthony-less world.
DeRozan wasn't his draft pick, and he didn't sign him to that extension. Those were moves made by the previous regime. If Ujiri puts him on the market and is eventually proposed a reasonable-enough trade that helps improve this basketball team, he will pull the trigger in a heartbeat.
From a fan's perspective, it would be hard to see DeRozan go. Over the course of his first four seasons with the team, DeRozan has played in 304 games, which puts him ninth all time in Raptors history.
The franchise has been a revolving door for talent since its inception in 1995. Whether it's via trade or free agency, not a lot of players have called Toronto their home for the long term.
By signing his extension, DeRozan proved that he genuinely wants to be a Raptor. Sure, money played a huge role in his decision to sign on the dotted line; however, no one can ever question his loyalty to his teammates, management and the fanbase.
Sometimes, though, that isn't enough.
During the 2012-13 regular season, DeRozan averaged 18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals, all of which were increases over his numbers the previous year. The arrival of Rudy Gay and the development of rookie Jonas Valanciunas perhaps overshadowed his play, but that's been DeRozan's story ever since he was drafted back in 2009.
He's never been "the guy." In all likelihood, he never will be "the guy" for the Toronto Raptors. He's a nice piece that can help build towards something greater, but a No. 1 option he will never be, with all due respect.
The numbers he posted last season could be his ceiling. There's nothing wrong with being a 16-to-18-points-a-night guy in the NBA, but shooting guards with a knack for scoring the basketball are a dime a dozen.
Despite finishing fourth among shooting guards in scoring at 18.1, DeRozan would only rank 18th in PER (Player Efficiency Rating), at 14.65, and 16th in win shares, at 5.6. His scoring average is perfectly acceptable and well above the norm, but his impact isn't being felt enough to the point at which he's being talked about as one of the premier guards in the league today.
Numbers never lie, and DeRozan's PER and win-share totals are quite telling.
When Rudy Gay was dealt to the Raptors in a blockbuster, three-team trade back in January, many skeptics believed that DeRozan and his new teammate wouldn't be able to coexist with their similar styles in the starting lineup. Both players are considered slashing guards with inconsistent shooting touches.
Heading into training camp, DeRozan can help remove further doubt by improving on a facet of his game that is in desperate need of some fine-tuning: his three-point shot.
Shooting from three-point range has never been a strength of his game. His highest percentage from behind the arc came last season, when he nailed 28.3 percent.
DeRozan only hit nine of his 50 three-point attempts from January to March. He loves to hoist it up from long distance, but he's too unpredictable with his shot to have his coaching staff trust him as a threat from there. By adding more range, DeRozan can bring a new dynamic to the lineup and allow someone like Gay more breathing room on offense.
In the month of April, DeRozan shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from three-point range, while averaging 22.9 points and 54.0 percent from the field. Those numbers shouldn't be counted on to continue for an entire season, but there's always the possibility that it could be a sign of things to come.
There is significant value in DeMar DeRozan. At just 24 years old, he has yet to hit his prime.
However, with that being said, is now the right time to cut ties with the former USC Trojan, see what assets you can get for him and start anew?
There isn't a right or wrong answer.
At the very least, the security is in place for the next four years. Unless he's dealt of course, DeRozan will be suiting up for the Toronto Raptors.
Perhaps with a full training camp and a complete slate of games to work with, the duo of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay can evolve into something more than what it already is.
Maybe DeRozan will break through the glass ceiling and one day be recognized as one of the very best at his position. The potential is there for that to happen, but a lot of work needs to be done before it can.
Is he going to be traded away at some point in 2013-14? There's really no way of knowing.
Should he feel safe? Absolutely not. There's a new sheriff in town with Masai Ujiri, and I'm positive that he's going to be keeping a close eye on DeRozan throughout the year.