In an offseason filled with huge contracts and even bigger expectations, DeMar DeRozan did not miss out on his opportunity to get paid.
Signing the second largest deal in NBA history (five years, $139 million), DeRozan has a lot (and I mean a lot) to prove this season. Seeing how the league is progressively turing into a three point shooting league, he is on the outside looking in. Not only is DeRozan not a good three point shooter (34 percent), but he is not even a consistent mid-range shooter either (45 percent). Yes he is one of the most athletic players in the league period, but as seen in the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, smart teams will play him as a shooter instead of a slasher, which renders him almost ineffective.
Kyle Lowry is still one of the top point guards in the NBA. His defensive ability along with his streaky outside shot makes him a premier player in the league and a bright spot for the Raptors. Also, seeing how both Lowry and DeRozan are coming off a gold medal win in the Rio Olympics, their confidence should be sky high entering into the season.
Toronto is going to need even more from Lowry. There were times in the Conference Finals when Lowry was brilliant, but there were also stretches in which he was no where to be found. Lowry’s inconsistency at times cost the Raptors big last postseason.
Seeing how Toronto pretty much threw all their money at DeRozan, the Raptors did not (could not) do much in free agency. Their biggest catch was stretch four Jared Sullinger and drafting rookie Jakob Poeltl .
Coming up short in the Eastern Conference Finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavilers, Toronto is going to want to take that step forward this season. DeMarre Carroll is going to need to improve as a two-way player and big man Jonas Valanciunas is going to need to make an improvement on both sides of the ball.
Two things can happen to the Raptors this season. They can either be the same old Raptors that get close, only to squander it down the stretch. Or they can make the necessary improvements and really be something special this year.
And now, it all starts with the $139 million dollar man.