Smith: DeRozan Wore Toronto On His Chest

"Folks are already talking about whether his No. 10 jersey might hang from the rafters in Toronto one day," Raptors radio host Eric Smith said

After Hours with Amy Lawrence
July 19, 2018 - 9:31 pm

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Raptors play-by-play voice Eric Smith joined After Hours with Amy Lawrence to discuss Toronto's trade with San Antonio, as DeMar DeRozan is heading to the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard is heading north of the border.

“(He was) a guy that wore Toronto literally and figuratively on his chest, even more so than any other player in franchise history,” Smith said. “We can sit and talk about the greats that have played in Toronto, from Damon Stoudamire to Tracy McGrady to of course Vince Carter and Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan – if he’s isn’t at the top of the list, he’s sharing the mantle with Vince Carter in terms of not just greatest player of all time, but when you factor in who he was – or who he is – as a person and the way that he represented this city and this country, he’s going to be missed big time.”

That's why Raptors fans feel bittersweet. They're excited for Leonard but sad to see DeRozan go.

"I think that’s why reaction has been mixed," Smith said. "Most fans are recognizing that assuming Kawhi Leonard is 100 percent healthy and assuming he’s coming to the Raptors and hopefully ready to play at least 82 games, I think most people are recognizing that Kawhi Leonard is a hell of a talent and the Raptors had to take this chance. It’s just unfortunate that it came at the cost of DeRozan. He is no doubt a fan favorite and a guy that’s going to be in a lot of Raptors fans’ hearts and minds for years to come. Folks are already talking about whether his No. 10 jersey might hang from the rafters in Toronto one day. There's no doubt that DeMar is going to be missed as much on the floor as he will be off it.”

Thus, the Raptors, who won 59 games last season – most in the Eastern Conference – have parted ways with their head coach, Dwane Casey, and their best player. It seems the franchise felt it had gone as far as it could with Casey and DeRozan at the helm.

Perhaps, Smith said, but there's plenty of blame to go around for Toronto's playoff shortcomings.

“DeMar DeRozan has got to take a slice and so does Kyle Lowry and so did Dwane Casey and so did every player on the team," Smith said. "That's not to sound cliche, but I don’t think you can lay the fault of what went wrong with the Raptors the last number of years in the postseason solely at the feet of DeRozan or Kyle Lowry and the two of them together. That said, this is a team that has been one of the more consistent teams in the entire NBA over the last four or five years. This is also a team that has run into a generational player – arguably a top-three, top-five, some might say top-two all time – in LeBron James, and he and the Cavs have ousted the Raptors in three straight years.”

DeRozan, by the way, is a four-time All-Star and this past year was second-team All-NBA. He's a top 10-20 player in the league, depending on your perspective.

But Leonard is better.

“(DeRozan is) a hell of a talent, but then you stack him up against Kawhi Leonard," Smith said. "We’re talking about a top-three to -five player in the league, a guy that – with no disrespect to DeMar – is a better defender than DeMar, a better three-point shooter than DeMar. The Raptors wouldn't have an opportunity, I believe, in unrestricted free agency to lure and to sign a player of Kawhi Leonard's caliber and talent. So the best way to get a player like that is via trade. You got to give something to get something.”