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Can DeMar DeRozan be a winning player?

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demar backing in on DWILLThere are very interesting conversations to  be had on the Toronto Raptors‘ all-star shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, and his upcoming free agency. This offseason DeRozan will be a free agent, likely seeking a max contract. However, there are still concerns with his game that he hasn’t addressed, and if he doesn’t, it’s hard to see him being a core part of a winning organization.

There’s no question that DeRozan is one of the league’s most talented scorers, and likely a top 5 shooting guard. However, DeRozan’s impact is cut in different shapes, first statistically, and secondly, through the eye test.

The Raptors’ style of play offensively in the past couple years has revolved around the pick-and-roll, and the drive-and-kick game, starting with Kyle Lowry. But, as a first option scoring-wise, the team has relied heavily on DeRozan’s offence, generated usually by a couple of different means: pick-and-roll, off-ball screens, low-post ups, and isolation (more so the latter – especially this season).

DeRozan absolutely helps the team in many ways. He understands how to handle defensive pressure, makes plays for others (an attribute he has significantly improved), has added consistent scoring paired with sound footwork, and is currently a top three player in free-throw attempts and makes. He’s also a major factor when he’s on the court vs. off the court – the team clearly needs him to be effective. The team scores, assists, rebounds, gets to the free throw line, and scores significantly better with him on the court; he also accounts for a fifth of the team’s overall scoring at 20.8 points per game, as the Raptors average 101.1 points a game.

1626681Through some of the advanced metrics, he’s also proven positive impact for the team: the team’s assist percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage, and offensive rating are significantly better when he’s on the court vs. off of the court. The Raptors have justified their usage in DeRozan, because of his overall positive impact on the team’s success.

Despite the paper proof of his positive impact, advanced metrics and the traditional statistics illustrate that DeRozan is incredibly inefficient, and actually could be a burden to the team’s effectiveness offensively.

DeRozan’s player efficiency rating ranks him at 54th in the league; that’s a huge negative, especially because he’s ranked in the top 25 in usage, and is actually the highest usage player on the entire team. He’s used a lot more then their point guard.

He’s also shooting 41% from the field, which is at the bottom half of the league. What’s even more important to note, and very concerning, is that DeRozan is top 25 in the league in field goal attempts. You can do the math, DeRozan is not capitalizing on how many opportunities he has to score the basketball. He’s also 29th in the entire league in turnovers per game, mainly because he has the ball so often.

Then, there’s the eye test.

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Media DayDeRozan’s style of play is almost an equation for inefficient basketball. He’s very good at creating shots and creating for others, but it’s how he does it. He spends a lot of his time with the ball in isolation situations and with his back-to-the-basket; historically DeRozan has struggled against tougher and quicker defenders, which leads to him forcing a terrible shot out of the rhythm of the offense, or turning it over to the opposition.

He’s also used in set plays more often than any other player, and with that expectation, he’s also very poor at reading plays and making cuts. DeRozan certainly knows how to move without the ball when a play is called for him, but he doesn’t know how to move when the set isn’t intended for him. He spends much of his time sitting in the corner or the wings waiting for the ball to swing his way.

Let’s clarify, we are not saying DeRozan is a bad player. He loves Toronto, works hard, and has steadily improved his game. In fact, he’s arguably the most effective and important player aside from his backcourt mate. But, he is in fact being over-utilized; it’s a topic that has been beaten for years – he is not a first option in any system in the league. DeRozan’s usage is mind-boggling, especially when he’s not producing at that level offensively.

DeRozan driveThe Toronto Raptors are undefeated when DeRozan shoots less than 14 field goals a game. Further, he averages 14 shots a game in wins and 19 in losses. Sure, it’s a small sample size considering they’ve only played 18 games, but that is very well a trend that might be important to note down the road.

So, how do you turn DeRozan into a ‘winning’ player? (A player the Spurs would want). Firstly, less isolation, and more facilitation. DeRozan is great at drawing in defenders, and he can use that to really become a catalyst. Another important thing has to be an improved shot selection. He’s shooting 70% from 0-3 feet, but a miserable 37% from 10 to 16 feet – a space he takes approximately 24% of his shots.

Ultimately, DeRozan has to be a smarter decision maker – he forces too much nonsense, and stops the flow of the offense when he takes his good old time to back into a defender, wait for a screen, or dribble into three defenders expecting a foul.The team needs to stop using him as often as they do in order to bail them out in clutch situations, and continue to just move the ball down the stretch. The isolation heavy play DeRozan and the Raptors rely on, especially down the stretch, is not sustainable, winning basketball. It’s inefficient.

Dwane Casey is using DeMar DeRozan as a “star” option in his already very stagnant, controversial offense (if it even is one), so DeRozan has become accustomed to that role. That has to change, otherwise DeRozan’s inefficiency is going to stay at this current trend, and the Raptors offense cannot succeed in the long haul. Again, he’s clearly being used as a true number one option, and this offense will only go as far as it will when you’re limiting it to DeRozan, who is just not that tier of a player.



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4 thoughts on “Can DeMar DeRozan be a winning player?”

  1. I agree with just about everything said in the article… but i think the emphasis should be on guys like terrence ross, james johnson, and damarre carrol to make plays. Lowry is holding up his end and the bigs do what they can but the raptors missing link is at the SF position if you ask me.

    I think james johnson recognizes this and is wanting to be the answer but we will see.

  2. I hate to gloat now because hindsight is always 20-20, and the Rapports have now won 14 of their last 15 games now, but for anyone who has ever played actual competitive ball before, they can see Demar’s length and athletic ability.

    It should have been obvious to most educated Raptors fans that the game would eventually slow down for Demar and it would just be a mater of time before he began to dominate like he is right now.

    If not for the major injury he suffered last year we would be talking about the guy who just made 3 consecutive Allstar games. If he continues his gradual improvement, especially defensively and with his improved play making ability he could be a top 3 shooting guard in 1 to 2 years.

    The so called stastical data that the writer used here in this article just proves that data can be used to prove or disprove any argument.

    So as we head into the Allstar game here shortly, who can you point to as being marketability better than Demar at the shooting guard position? I believe the question was can Demar play winning basketball? Well Jimmy Butter is on a stacked team that’s barely. 500 and could miss the playoffs possibly.

    KOBE or DWade are on there last legs, although Wade has been pretty good this hear compared to the last 3 years.

    I would slightly lean towards Jimmy Butter but he is a bit inconsistent, or Klay Thompson but he has been injured and plays a different role on a stacked team with a unique system.

    It is clear now that Demar will be in huge demand as one of the best 3 or 4 free agents this summer. There are dozens of teams know who are going to make a run at him and offer him the max.

    So how about all of the brand-new, (parttime) Raptors fans give your spreadsheets a rest and go out and play some pickup basketball and leave the analysis to the experts..?

    There was a reason why top basketball GM’s and coaches, like Doc Rivers, we’re eager to trade for him 2 years ago.

    The great thing about Demar is that he is an elite scorer that is willing to be your second optionvia necessary. Most NBA stars now demand to be the primary option all the time. He is also drama free and a chore player that people want to play with.

    With Kyle and Demar all they need now is an elite 3, which when healthy Demarre Carol possibly could come close to and a elite level power forward to play next to Jonas/Byombo.

    It just seems so counterproductive to always talk about arguably our best or possibly 2ND best player all the time on these forums.

    He is a free agent and we better just count our lucky stars that he is a truly Raptor and want to play his whole career here if possible.

    If we walks, what is our backup plan again…lol?

    Our biggest free agent signing to date was Hedo Turkelo!

    Atleast he is retired now..lol.


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