It was just 16 months ago when the basketball-observing public, including both the U.S. and local media, was mocking Bryan Colangelo for handing DeMar DeRozan a rich four-year contract extension. At the time, DeRozan was a promising athlete who had failed to tangibly improve over his first three years in the NBA. It was a bet on potential, not a reward for production. Such gambles had failed before for Colangelo — see: Bargnani, Andrea.

As the blowback came, there was significant concern from various members of the Raptors organization that the negativity would affect DeRozan. Just give him a chance to live up to the deal, worth at least US$38-million, they said.

One person who did not share those worries: DeRozan.

“I feel like I owe [the Raptors] all I can bring to the team,” DeRozan said at the time.

That was it. It was clear that he would let his play either validate or discredit those who doubted him. It fell in line with a player known for his work ethic and professionalism; Colangelo cited those traits as reasons for the extension.

In his first full year playing under the terms of the new contract, DeRozan has already shown himself worthy of the money. DeRozan will play on his first NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in New Orleans. His average points per 36 minutes is at its highest level, largely on the strength of getting to the free-throw line more often. He has made his turnaround jumper on the baseline a bankable shot. And since the departure of Rudy Gay, he has shown improved playmaking skills: He is averaging 4.5 assists and just 2.1 turnovers per game since the move, giving the Raptors much-needed distribution beyond Kyle Lowry, who certainly has played well enough this season to be in New Orleans with DeRozan but was not selected as a reserve.