Here are the facts: DeMar DeRozan is a lock to opt out of his contract this summer. He’d be an idiot not to. He has one season left on this deal at $10 million. A max offer for him will start in the four-year, $100 million range. Nobody leaves $90 million on the table.
DeRozan has said he wants to stay with the Raptors. There is every reason to believe he means this — he likes the city, he says this is the best team he’s ever been on, and he wants to see if he can be part of a Raptors team that makes the franchise’s first conference finals (or beyond).
But other teams will make calls. Specifically, the Los Angeles Lakers, as reported by Zach Lowe of ESPN (and echoed by many around the league).
That starts with DeRozan, a lock to decline his option and hit free agency this summer. A bunch of teams, including DeRozan’s hometown Lakers, are prepared to offer him a max deal starting at $25 million per season, and the Raptors know they will have to spend big to keep him.
Of course the Lakers are going to call — they are going to call every Tier 1 and Tier 2 free agent out there, and they will get meetings with almost all of them. That’s the advantage of being the Lakers.
It’s easy to imagine the Lakers’ pitch (which will focus on basketball this time around): We’ll give you $100 million to come home and step into Kobe Bryant‘s spot in the offense, with young talents such as D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance around you. This is the franchise you grew up watching, you played your college ball just down Figuroa during the Kobe/Pau Gasol Lakers, you know how this city treats its stars when they win. Come out of the cold, come home.
It likely is not enough. The Toronto Raptors can offer more money — larger raises and a guaranteed fifth season — plus the team is better and closer to challenging for a title than the Lakers, who even in an optimistic world are a few years away. DeRozan is going to stay put.
Unless the Raptors lowball him. As Lowe notes, if Raptors GM Masai Ujiri decides that the team can get by with Terrence Ross in that slot and use the money they would have spent on DeRozan to upgrade at the four, it’s possible. Unlikely, because Ross isn’t ready, DeRozan is a fan favorite who has improved his game, and he fits well with Kyle Lowry. But it’s not impossible.
But the future of DeRozan is not in the Lakers’ hands, no matter what they offer. This is Toronto’s negotiation to lose.