NBA trade rumors: Raptors explored dealing DeMar DeRozan last summer before breakout season

The Raptors are coming off another disappointing postseason despite an improvement from DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors and DeRozan just finished their best regular season in franchise history, but the result was the same as always: A playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

To DeRozan's credit, he has done everything that's been asked of him ever since taking a role that has made him a face of the franchise. The offense is built around what he's able to do with the ball in his hands. The Raptors used him in a multitude of ways this season, as he became a more effective floor spacer and a better creator for the offense as a whole. The reason Toronto's offense was effective was because of DeRozan.

Toronto putting its faith in DeRozan was risky, but it paid off. That nearly didn't happen, however, as according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Raptors explored the idea of moving DeRozan in the offseason.

Word is that the Raptors quietly explored their DeMar DeRozan trade options last summer —  before they had any inkling that a breakout season was looming — and I'd fully expect Toronto to explore those possibilities again. Not just with DeRozan but with anyone and everyone on the roster.  

There's two ways to look at this report: At first glance, Raptors president Masai Ujiri was probably doing his due diligence and exploring what he could get for a star. Last offseason in particular saw a lot of big names being moved. It shouldn't be surprising to find out that Toronto considered getting in on the movement. At second glance, Ujiri may not believe that DeRozan is part of the team's future. He's the best player on the roster, but he comes with a ceiling and Toronto has potentially raised that ceiling as high as it can go. At some point the Raptors will need to collect on what they have and start something new. To do that, it may require trading a star like DeRozan or Kyle Lowry.

It's worth wondering if Toronto could even get the kind of return it wants, if it explores trade options for DeRozan again this offseason, especially after the season he just had. It's very clear that DeRozan is the key to the team's regular season success. If Toronto is going to move him, then it will want a player or assets in return that can bring back similar production. Is there any team out there that sees DeRozan in that same light?

DeRozan's value to the franchise is far higher than how anybody else will view him. This isn't even going into the three years left on his five-year, $139 million contract. Moving him would be like moving a mountain for the Raptors. Sure, it's probably doable if you put enough work into it, but is it really worth it? It's probably best for the Raptors to keep DeRozan around, see if he can continue to improve and hope something breaks their way. If not, his contract runs out and they start over.

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