Why don’t we look at the Toronto Raptors as a bird? What does a bird have? A bird has two wings, yes, and the Toronto Raptors have two wings. For this bird to move, for it to fly, and for it to function, these wings have to work simultaneously, and work together. So the big question revolving this poor analogy, is Can DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay Co-Exist?
First, let’s look at their play styles and numbers. DeRozan is an elite athlete, is known as one of the most explosive finishers in the league, a scorer, mostly from the mid-ranged area and free throw line. But he also struggles from the perimeter, can be inefficient, and is a below average defender. In his fourth year, DD averaged career bests, with 18.1 points per game, 2.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 83% from the free throw line, 28% from 3, 36.7 minutes a game, and was incredibly durable, playing each and every single game, and started every contest.
Rudy Gay as a Raptor, averaged 19.5 points per game, tied career bests with steals at 1.7 per game, and 2.8 assists per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, 86% from the free throw line, & 37% from 3. Like DeRozan, Rudy is inefficient, an explosive athlete, and scores off the mid-ranged area, and shoots a very good percentage from the free throw line. Rudy is a quality defender, one who can be a lockdown defender whenever he chooses to. The one part of Rudy’s game, where most Raptor fans and followers thought would be the biggest advantage, is his ability to create and score in late clock situations, and even performed multiple times down the stretch of games. For example, the game away against the Indiana Pacers, and the home game-winner over the Denver Nuggets.
First of all, the reason these two are able to co-exist, is the defensive attention they both attract. Teams will have to key in on both players, regardless of who the match-ups and individual defenders are. The one with the less attention, can take the pressure off of the other, and have easier ability and space to create their shots. It’s incredibly hard to to consistently guard both, most especially when they have their shot falling.
Another reason for their ability to co-exist, is the specific floor spacing. Head coach, Dwane Casey, mentioned that DeMar favours the left side of the floor, and Rudy favours the right side. We’ve seen some of their best abilities in their favorite spots. DeMar’s game-winner against the Orlando Magic, and Rudy’s game-winners in the past. If both wings are spread, and able to use their set spaces, trying to close out, and or guard a player from opposite sides of the court will be a problem.
Lastly, DeMar and Rudy’s play styles are similar. DeMar and Rudy are players that are effective with their back to the basket – the post-game. Both are players that score from the mid-ranged area, shoot good percentages from the free throw line, and run the floor. The ability to have two, athletic wing players that can get out, run, and score on the break is important, especially with how Dwane Casey wants to score – score in transition, off defensive stops. This type of pairing is a little similar to LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade- two players that don’t shoot great percentages from outside, athletic wing players, and have made their living in the paint for the past few seasons. If Rudy and DeMar vow, or at the very least commit to playing on the inside, they will be very effective.
With that said, there are reasons why co-existence between the two is not possible, or consistent. Whilst Rudy and DeMar both play similar styles, their similar gameplay can clash. Their below average percentages from outside, them having to play within the mid-ranged area, and the post, limits their overall space to create. Teams will not think of them as a deep threat with their below average shooting . Not only will that limit Rudy and DeMar, it will close gaps, and passing lanes for their teammates, such as Jonas Valanciunas, and Kyle Lowry. The court will look very small to say the least. But with DeMar’s commitment this coming summer to improve the 3 point shot, Rudy to get healthy and work on his stroke and shoulder, this might be an issue that is addressed as soon as season’s start.
Inefficiency is another issue that needs to be addressed as well. With coach Casey’s offense, the team relies heavily on isolation offense, and as we’ve seen, it sits on the shoulders of DeRozan and Gay. It becomes school yard basketball, with a type of mentality of “Your turn, my turn.” No movement, no space – because of their below average ability to shoot outside – and ultimately, results into bad shot selection, and misses.
In conclusion, these two talented wing players have the potential to co-exist, but with the variables to consider, it’s not going to be an easy task for the coaching staff, the team, and more importantly, Rudy and DeMar to figure out. It’s a tough thing to evaluate, especially because this team has had a sample size of Rudy, no training camp, and not a fully healthy roster. Rudy and DeMar are two players with still much room to grow, and are two guys that can work and grow off one another, not to mention they’ve already got great on and off court chemistry. Raptor fans will just have to stick with the thought, and the potential of the two players co-existing, because, like mentioned above, when both players are having success, it’s an exciting thing to watch.