It was nice of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey to spend some time on Rogers Sportsnet Fan590 radio recently as nothing exciting is expected to happen on the trade or free agent front in Toronto for a while now. However, suggesting All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan would be asked to act more as a facilitator, a point guard this season really shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.
“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”
You can only be excused for not knowing the ball goes through DeRozan’s hands on over one-third of the Raptors plays if you never actually watched the team play. What is less talked about, however, is, DeRozan was top five among shooting guards in assists last season at 3.9 per game according to ESPN and that’s pretending James Harden was still playing as a shooting guard.
DeRozan has been averaging right around 4 assists per game every year since his first All-Star appearance in 2013-14, the same year this team actually started winning games – probably not a complete coincidence.
Asking the Eastern Conference’s second leading scorer to handle the ball more and create more opportunities for his teammates hardly feels like a stretch. It’s more like just the next expected evolution of a 28-year-old three-time All-Star guard’s game.
Casey has been letting other guards bring the ball up the court to initiate the offense every year he’s had a second guard capable of doing so. It allows his best above the arc three-point shooter Kyle Lowry to play off the ball and be a bigger scoring threat and makes defenses adjust to an alternate look. Having DeRozan handle the ball more really wouldn’t be anything unexpected.
DeRozan was third on the Raptors in passes per game made last season (34.8) per NBA.com behind only Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. He was second in secondary assists (1.0), second in potential assists (8.1) and second in points created off of assists (9.8).
DeRozan and Lowry have a nearly identical assist to pass ratio, further illustrating he already was a significant contributor to the Raptors offense beyond creating his own shot. Asking him to create more, isn’t a major leap.
When president Masai Ujiri was asked if the Raptors were going to play differently this coming season at the C.J. Miles media availability, he put everything in it’s proper perspective.
“We are going to try (to play differently) a little bit,” Ujiri explained. “We are not asking for a dramatic change. If that is what anybody is looking for, I don’t know that this is the team to watch.
“It’s not going to be a dramatic change. We have to be conscious of the things we can do better. We have to pay attention to those things we can do better, moving the ball a little bit better, spacing the floor a little bit better.”
Can DeRozan bring the ball up the court more often next season? Sure, I doubt anyone would even notice.
Could DeRozan initiate the offense more often? Again, sure, what’s the big deal here?
Will DeRozan get more assists next season? Passing the ball to Miles in the corner a couple of times a game should accomplish that all on it’s own.
Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson