I have been hard on DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors over these past couple of years.
Year after year this team has exciting regular season games featuring iconic artist Drake patrolling the sidelines during what might be the most party-like experience in the NBA minus the frenzy in Golden State.
Yet as exciting and potent as this team can be is as flawed and inconsistent they always end up being when it matters. Great regular season wins and records give way to disappointing shooting percentages and loss of defensive identity come playoff time. Time and again we gather around this young Raptors team hoping they catch fire and topple the Cavaliers of the world as a surprising darkhorse. In many ways the team takes on the identity of its two stars, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. I have gone on the record saying that they are both B level stars in this lead that lack the ability and consistency to take “6” to the promised land.
Good thing DeMar Derozan doesn’t care about what I think.
Over the last few years slowly but surely DeRozan despite his faults has gotten better and improved his game every single year. He is now third amongst all scorers at 31.4 points per game trailing only the one man shows of Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Even more impressive is the manner and efficiency at which he is doing his scoring.
Last season DeRozan made 38% of his mid range jumpers and buried 35.8% the year before. This year? 47%. He is getting to the foul line more often than ever in his career and is making more than 50% of his contested field goal attempts. To do all of this while being name number one on every opposing teams’s scouting report is simply remarkable. Night after night Demar faces zones, doubles, hedges, switches, and any other conceivable defensive strategy coaches can muster. None of it has helped as he continues to torch NBA defenses regardless of the preparation and game plan of the other squad.
Gone are the holes that lead to his 32% and 39% shooting in last years first two playoff series. This year a resurgent DeRozan is burying step back jumpers, catching defenders off balance and making people pay for every mistake they make. He still is not a knock down shooter from range but his ability to step in and create space with an ever improving handle on the ball makes things easy. There is a nuance to his game that no longer allows for you to leave him alone behind the arc and wait for him to come barreling to the rim. This has helped the Raptors jump out to an 8-5 start in the Eastern Conference.
So how good has he really been? A “true” mid-range shot is from 10-16 feet and a “long two” is considered 16+ feet but within the 3 point line. These are among the hardest shots in the game and many coaches prefer their guys to either be taking threes or shots right at the basket. Good thing DeMar DeRozan still does not care.
He is shooting 58% on true mid-range shots and 52.2% on long twos. Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, Rip Hamilton. These are some of the greatest scorers especially from mid range of our time and no one on that list has even approached the collective numbers from mid range that DeMar DeRozan is shooting right now. He is in a league of his own.
It remains to be seen whether these numbers and DeMar’s torrid scoring pace is sustainable. One thing is for sure at this point in time is that DeMar DeRozan is here to send a message. People are taking notice.