DeMar DeRozan’s 3-pointers: more than 1 way to step up

Jan 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is fouled on his way to the basket by Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is fouled on his way to the basket by Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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DeMar DeRozan is getting more defensive attention than ever, but is looking for his fourth straight game with 30 or more points. How is he doing it?

I’m not exactly publishing breaking news when I report the NBA has never been more obsessed with 3-point shooting than the present day. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are a combined 78-10 to date, and those two squads live and die (though mostly live, exuberantly) by the long ball. They rank 1-2 in 3-point shooting percentage, at 42.4 and 38.5, respectively.

The Toronto Raptors sit an eminently respectable seventh, with 36% but are middle of the pack in attempts per game with 23.2. There are several reasons for that, one being the continued absence of DeMarre Carroll. However, I postulate the most important reason is the fact our shooting guard and highest scorer, DeMar DeRozan, has never caught the 3-point fever.

Jan 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) talks to center Jonas Valanciunas (17) against the New Orleans Pelicans at Air Canada Centre. The Pelicans beat the Raptors 95-93. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) talks to center Jonas Valanciunas (17) against the New Orleans Pelicans at Air Canada Centre. The Pelicans beat the Raptors 95-93. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

To test my theory, I ran the numbers. DD ranks #63 (gulp!) among shooting guards, making 30.4% of his 79 attempts. His 24 makes ties him for #50.

In points per game [PG], he’s second with 23.3, behind James Harden. Only Andrew Wiggins among top scoring 2-guards compares to DD in their disdain, or inability, to use the long ball to pad their numbers.

How does DeRozan maintain his high scoring, then? What’s his secret weapon? I nosed around among my favourite advanced data providers, and lo and behold, there it was at www.nbaminer.com [my thanks!]. DD has completed almost as many “and-1” chances as he has made long balls. He’s drained 22 of the 26 free-throws he’s been issued following a made 2-point field goal. That puts him in a fifth-place tie with the NBA’s MVP, that skinny gunslinger out west. Wiggins is just behind, in a seventh-place tie with Russell Westbrook at 20 successful “and-1″s.

The list of “and-1” leaders is mostly comprised of All-Stars – in top spot with 26 completions is King James. And here’s a bonus: the leaders in four-point plays this season, with four each, are Houston’s James Harden (in my view, the second-scariest shooter in the league, behind Curry) and Jamal Crawford, of tonight’s Raptors opponent, the Clippers.

While it’s easy to criticize DeRozan for not improving his shooting from distance to the same extent his other offensive skills have spiked, I’m not sure such carping is warranted. For one thing, his long-ball shooting may be shabby, but it’s less so than it’s ever been. He’s only been over 30% for a season once before in his 6 prior years. For another, 11 of his 24 makes have come in January. Is it a fluke, or a trend? Let’s hope for the latter, because if DD becomes a legitimate threat from outside, he’s going to be even more of a nightmare cover than he already is. His defender will have to come see him out there, after which it’s ball fake and gone, on the express route to the rim. And there are precious few players better than DeRozan at finishing a drive with a positive result, meaning a basket, an “and-1” or two free throws.

Next: Alternate 5-man units for Raptors

Not to be omitted: DD’s assists. His 4.2 PG has him tied for sixth with the estimable Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls among shooting guards. Better 3-point shooting will cause this number to rise as well. With DD’s primary defender left behind, secondary defenders will need to abandon their men to protect the paint. Result – drop-offs to DD’s centres, or passes to his wingmen for open corner 3s.

We’re looking at a virtuous circle, and more wins for the Raptors.

[all other data courtesy of www.nba.com/stats & www.http://espn.go.com/nba/statistics]