Apr 6, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 100-83. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan – in focus

The Toronto Raptors’ starting shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, enters his fifth season with expectations for his performance higher than they have ever been. He has proven to be a player who provides his coach with that most-sought-after quality, consistency, and while he has been an admirable pro thus far, DeMar will need to spike his play for his team to win. In short, his statistics will need to improve about 10% across the board, and that’s a tall order. Can he do it?

Feb 20, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay (22) and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during a break in the action against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Air Canada Centre. Memphis defeated Toronto 88-82. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The starting lineup for this season will look strikingly different that last. Whatever one may think of Rudy Gay (and you will learn my thoughts in due time), he’s a dramatically better player than last year’s Game 1 small forward, Dominic McGuire, who didn’t make it to Christmas before being deservedly waived. Andrea Bargnani’s star-crossed Raps career is over, so for the first time ever for DD, he won’t be tipping off with the Designated Disappointment. I’ve pencilled in Amir Johnson as the starter at power forward. Why am I harping about everyone but DeMar in his profile? Because DD will need to find his sea legs quickly with his new running mates if the Raps are to get off to a decent start, and make the playoffs. Last season commenced with 4 wins in 23 games, and you’d have to be the Michael Jordan Bulls to make the postseason after that.

DD’s report card for last season read: “Another solid offensive season, with noticeable improvement in taking the ball to the hoop. However, DeMar’s lack of success from 3-point range hampers his offense. His defensive play is lacklustre. GRADE – B” Long-time Raps fans will know these negatives also apply to each of his previous seasons, so consistency isn’t always to be desired.

A shooting guard doesn’t handle the ball, or lead the offense, the way his backcourt counterpart does at the point. However, he must contribute something to the ball-handling chores, largely by being the safety valve when the point is double-teamed. DD ranks no better than adequate as an emergency ball handler. He also must be able to fight through screens near the basket in order to get open on pick-&-pop plays, and this skill is one in which DD has been criticized for lack of determination. I don’t know about that, but I do know that his jump-shooting range is severely limited past about 19 feet. He is fortunate to have been selected by the Raps, because he likely would not be in the NBA with his woeful 3-point shooting (23.9% career) had he been drafted by a strong team like San Antonio or the Lakers. DeMar doesn’t scare anybody as a rebounder, which is why he’s probably less versatile than Terrence Ross may prove to be. But there’s the rub – DD isn’t a star, but he’s a top journeyman. There are no whispers about attitude problems; in fact, he appears to be a friend to everyone who joins the Raps. DD averages more minutes per game than anyone else on the team, and is never hurt. He is a legitimate threat to attack the basket, and makes opponents pay for fouling him during his frequent forays to the hoop. His 355 made free throws on 427 attempts ranked #7 and #8 in the NBA last season.

In April of last season, DD hoisted 18 3-balls, and buried 9 of them. If he can maintain that capability from Game 1, the Raps will be markedly improved. Forcing opposing defenses to get up in DD’s face will improve our spacing substantially, with Rudy and JV likely to be the biggest beneficiaries. (It should be noted that he made 9 in 50 attempts during January, February and March, so let’s not assume that he’s somehow “fixed” for good.)

DD is the player most mentioned in trade discussions, and that’s understandable. I hope he’s still around for a long time, but I wouldn’t make book on it. Should the Raps struggle this season, I think he’ll be gone by the trade deadline. There aren’t many untouchables on the Raps (how about JV…and that’s it), and GM Masai Ujiri has no players to whom his judgement is tied. DD’s contract is very reasonable, at $9.5M for each of the next 4 years. [20-second timeout: I don’t understand why this deal is criticized as an overpayment, and another example of Bryan Colangelo’s poor judgement.  I think it’s an excellent deal for both team and player, and won’t be an impediment to a trade should Ujiri decide the current squad needs to be blown up, starting with DD. Landry Fields’ contract, on the other hand, deserves all the dung thrown at it, and Rudy Gay’s is not much better.]

I like DeMar as a Raptor very much. He’s an easy guy to underestimate, because he’s not flashy. But he’s a proven pro, and someone whose skills and personality would be exceedingly hard to replace.

Tags: DeMar DeRozan Jonas Valanciunas Masai Ujiri Raptors Toronto Raptors

  • AM

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been waiting for something on Demar.

    If he and Rudy can show (significant) improvements in their 3pt%, that’s a tough guard for any team. That’s two, very athletic wings who can (hopefully, depending on offseason improvements) score in many ways; not a lot of teams have that kind of luxury, especially considering the trend to play small.

    I also think adding a guy like Novak will make his game a little easier. The opposition must respect Novaks shooting which will automatically provide more spacing for Demar (and Gay).

    I don’t think the ball handling is too much of a concern. With three capable point guards at Casey’s disposal this year, the only responsibility for him would be to simply get the ball over half. But you’re right, it will never hurt 2′s and 3′s to improve their handles.

    I’m confident he will show some improvements in his shooting for this coming season. He always comes out of the offseason a little better at something and it’s been made very known that his 3pt% is what needs the most work.

    In terms of his contract, I agree, it’s not as bad as people make it. That and it’s nice to have a player who seems to be quite loyal to the team and city.

    If you can’t tell, I’m a little biased as DeRozan is my favorite player on my favorite team.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi AM: I’m pleased you liked the piece, and I’m glad you made the point about DD being loyal to his team & city. It’s another reason why he’s more than just another player.
      I stayed away from speculating on how Novak’s presence might affect DD, only because I want to see them in action together. In theory, you’re quite right; if Novak establishes himself as a credible threat, there will be more space available for DD to take it to the hoop.
      It’s OK to be “biased” about DD. He’s worthy of the high regard.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • cd hall

    Sorry but I don’t agree with you about the contract! BC jumped the gun. There was no need to give DD a contract 1 yr in advance. I can’t see any team offering him even 9 mil. a season until he improves his 3PT shooting, Defence and his ball handling skills!!!If he were to be signed today,I doubt he would receive any offers over 6-7 mil. for 3 yrs.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi cd: I suspect it won’t take too many games into this season before one or the other of us is proven wrong. If DD is over 20 PPG by Christmas, I’ll feel vindicated. If not, you can take a bow.
      Your comment has inspired me to consider just how much it costs to get a player who can produce DD’s numbers on a consistent basis. While I don’t enjoy statistical analysis, I do like figuring out value for money issues. Ultimately I’m interested in determining if DD is under- or over-paid, and if the results are compelling, I’ll write a post.
      Thanks for commenting.
      P.S. Remember Amir Johnson’s contract? It was bashed as too expensive at the time, and now looks like a bargain.

    • Dylan William Reid

      there is no way in the nba that a player who averages 18 ppg will get paid 6-7 million dollars. i have an understanding of how the nba works and I know for a fact Demar wouldve got paid about 10-11 Mill for 4 years. And Demar is an average defender if people actually watch the raptors game you would see that he is not a bad defender. can he improve? hell damn yeah ! if you got court side seats you would hear demar communicating with his team on the defensive end helping directing traffic. Demar is very underrated. One final point why the hell people want to trade DeMar for??? DeMar is one of those players who would stick with the Raptors throughout his whole career! He loves the city and the franchise and he said he wants to be here for the good times. why do people bash on a player and a human being like that? damn. I seen Demar through college at USC and he couldnt even make a jumpshot to save his life and i saw it too during his rookie year and ever since his sophomore year he has always been improving. its funny how far he’s came with his game. he is an example of how hard work pays off.

      • Newmarket_Brian

        Hello Dylan: First of all, sorry for slow response. Your comment got “stuck” in our system somewhere.
        I think you’ve put together a passionate defense of DeMar, and why he earned his healthy raise & extension. For now, you & I are in the minority about DD not being overpaid, but I think he will change a lot of people’s minds this season.
        The key to DeMar is what you said “he has always been improving”. I hope he’s a career Raptor.
        Thanks for commenting.