It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that a two-time All-Star who opposing coaching always game-plan for can’t seem to get the respect he’s earned for his shooting, but the Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan, like so many before him and even some of his fellow current All-Stars often get evaluated based on what they can’t do and are nitpicked as to why they aren’t doing more.
Real GM’s Colin McGowan summed up a lot of NBA analysts’ view of the massive near max contract DeRozan signed this summer.
DeRozan is set to sign a late-prime Kobe Bryant contract: a lengthy deal with a first year that pays him $25 million, or a smidgen less than that. This is both absurd and just how supply-and-demand works. The invisible hand has run the numbers and decided to saddle one team with an extravagantly overpaid two-guard who can’t shoot.
If the Raptors are dead-set on winning a title in the next few years, they should let DeMar DeRozan walk. He’s a fine player, and on the odd night his jumper is fully operational, he’s downright thrilling, but he falls short of greatness.
Apparently the second highest scorer in the Eastern Conference last season falls short of greatness and McGowan isn’t alone in his assessment. At just 26-years-old, DeRozan has shouldered a significant scoring load since his second season in Toronto and his pedestrian 44.2 percent career shooting average has been pretty consistent year over year. However, even McGowan admits the young guard seems to keep getting better each season even if his field goal percentages aren’t.
Steadily, the Raptors have grown over the past three seasons, in part due to (GM) Ujiri’s adept personnel maneuvering and in part because DeRozan and (Kyle) Lowry have returned each year having expanded some aspect or another of their now-estimable skillsets.
This is Lowry and DeRozan’s team and the Raptors have set franchise records for wins in a season for three years in a row now, culminating with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history this past season. DeRozan has grown along with his team, adding to his game each summer and the numbers bear this out.
“Every year, I look at whatever we have to do as a big challenge and I just try to come back a better player than I was before, and do whatever I need for my team to win,” DeRozan told Michael Lee of The Vertical. “The beauty of playing basketball is being able to build yourself all the way up and then go back down and start all over again. It’s going to be a brand new challenge for us, with a couple of new guys and losing a couple of key players from last year. But starting the first day of training camp, it’s about laying that foundation of how great we can be, coming off the great season we had.”
DeRozan has largely overcome earlier criticism of being a below average defender. It isn’t expected he’ll ever be considered a defensive stopper, but in head coach Dwane Casey’s system, the Raptors are a good defensive team with DeRozan on the court. However, the on-going complaint about DeRozan remains the range on his jump shot. In the three-point happy NBA, DeRozan is still touted as a guy you can play for the drive on the perimeter.
But, the assumptions about DeRozan’s jump shot should be subject to challenge. Things aren’t always what they seem and the painfully poor three-point shooting of his first four seasons in the NBA has been on a steady upward trend towards respectability over the past three years.
Except for the 2014-15 season when DeRozan missed all of December and the first two weeks in January, the improvement in his three-point shooting has been pretty consistent and adjusting for a terrible February in 2015 when he went (an injury related?) 2-16 from three, the results are even more impressive.
On the Raptors, it isn’t DeRozan’s job to fire up three-ball after three-ball, they have Lowry (38.8% 3FG), DeMarre Carroll (39% 3FG), Terrence Ross (38.6% 3FG), Norman Powell (40.4% 3FG) and Patrick Patterson (36.2% 3FG) to carry that load. An anticipated full season from the ‘3-and-D’ Carroll should go a long ways to helping Toronto get back to the middle of the NBA pack in three-point attempts this coming season and Powell is expected to get a lot more playing time than he did as a rookie.
However, another slight bump in DeRozan’s three-point shooting average will take him into the realm of long range respectability and he’s already shown that you fail to guard him in the corners at your peril. DeRozan can hit the corner three-ball.
He doesn’t have to fire up 4+ three point attempts per game like Lowry, Ross and Carroll to open up further aspects of his own game and create opportunities for the Raptors rapidly developing center Jonas Valanciunas in the paint. DeRozan just has to hit a reasonable percentage of his open long range shots so defenders can’t play off of him.
It’s time the Raptors All-Star got a little more respect for his jump shot … especially from people who don’t have to game-plan for him every night during the season.