DeRozan’s contract will keep Raptors away from the NBA finals in the foreseeable future

Let’s get it out of the way — If he is not already, DeMar DeRozan will become the quintessential Raptor. Spurned first by Vince Carter and then by Chris Bosh, Raptors Nation deserve and have finally earned the eternal devotion of a player who is exemplary on and off the court. DeRozan is someone you want to know. Someone you want your son and daughter to emulate in many ways.

What DeRozan is not is what makes his $139M contract extension — the largest ever given to an athlete playing in Canada — an anchor that will relegate Toronto to runner-up in the east at best in the next few years. Let it be said here first — DeRozan’s contract implicitly states that the Raptors will not reach the NBA finals in the foreseeable future. Some will cry foul at this assessment. But let’s look no more than one year down the road, when the Raptors will have to re-sign Kyle Lowry for the same if not higher “hometown discount.

DeRozan wasted no time re-signing with Toronto. He put in rest rumors about interest in playing in his home town of Los Angeles. He works hard. He wants to improve. All that is good. But none of it suggests he and Lowry together will improve from being second tier stars to championship caliber talents — a leap necessary to make them capable of leading their cohorts to topple LeBron James. After all, what are the odds that DeRozan and Lowry, plus whoever Ujiri could afford after giving away nearly $300M will succeed where Curry, Thompson and Green failed?

Lest we forget, it’s not Curry that LeBron wants to, needs to beat, it’s the ghost of Michael Jordan. The will to forge a Jordanesque legacy has enabled LeBron to return to the finals 6 straight times. But for debilitating injuries to his teammates last year, King James may already have 4 rings to show. Now 31 years old, he has exactly the same number of championships as Jordan did at the same age. So six-peat, even if interspersed in time, is within his reach, particularly when he has shown himself to be as durable as any great player in history.

Coming back to the Raptors, re-signing DeRozan is the right thing to do. There is really no alternative unless the team is willing to reset the process in a Sixers-like manner. But this contract and the inevitable follow-up re-signing of Lowry will doom the Raptors to the same fate as the Mavericks — pretending that roster tweaking alone is enough to climb ahead of one of the best players in the history of the game.