DeMar DeRozan

If the results of Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery have you down, I think I have just the remedy for your blues – a look back at DeMar DeRozan’s development this season.

Season Stats: 82 GP (all starts), 34.8 MPG, 17.2 PPG, 46.7 FG%, 9.6 3PT%, 81.3 FT%, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1 SPG

Rookie Stats: 77 GP (65 starts), 21.6 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 49.8 FG%, 25 3PT%, 76.3 FT%, 2.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.6 SPG

When DeMar DeRozan was selected by the Raptors with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, much hype followed the Compton youngster. There were those that believed DeRozan, while still very young and raw, could become the best NBA player in the entire draft class, he was immediately compared to ex-Raptor Vince Carter, and of course, DeRozan did nothing to ease the hype when he tweeted: “Toronto here I come. Air Canada’s back.”

Suffice to say, despite his tender age, the bar was set high for DeMar DeRozan in Toronto, and that was before Chris Bosh left for South Beach.

While his rookie season delivered some highlight reel dunks, a runner-up finish (anyone who watched knew it should have been a win) in a very poor 2010 Dunk Competition and a contributing role on a team that finished just a win shy of a playoff berth, most still felt at least a little disappointed in DeRozan’s debut season in Canada.

However, when you consider that Jay Triano and the coaching staff monitored DeRozan’s minutes in his rookie season, and also were cautious not to put too much on his plate, then you realize that just under nine points per game in 21 minutes per game is nothing to scoff at. Did he live up to expectations in his rookie season? Probably not, but he also wasn’t anything close to a failure.

What I wanted to see from DeRozan in year two, as a new focal point of the team when Bosh left, was earned minutes, aggressive play on offence, improvement on defence and a swagger that seemed to be missing in his rookie season.

He didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in year two, but when he got going, wow, did he show us something?

With memories of Bosh fading, Andrea Bargnani proving he didn’t have the “culiones” to be a franchise guy and the Raptors falling further and further out of playoff contention as the season wore on, DeRozan must have seen his opportunity. He grabbed it by the horns and ran with it.

It all started with a seemingly insignificant New Year’s Eve game in Houston. Coming in to the ball game, DeRozan had scored 20 points or more just five times in the first half of the season, and had never scored more than 26 in his season-and-a-half of NBA basketball. That night, DeMar poured in 37 points on 12-of-21 shooting and got to the line 14 times. From then on, it seemed something had clicked for DeRozan.

For the most part, he became a much more aggressive player after that fateful night in Houston, and started to get to the line with some consistency. When you couple this with the fact that his free throw shooting, itself, improved to over 80 per cent, you can see how his scoring average began to creep up.

With teammates out of the lineup for good chunks of the season and DeRozan’s on-court ego deservedly growing, there may have been some nights when DeMar forced too much on his own. On some nights, he was so aggressive, he almost looked out of control. But as he grew into his new role and became comfortable with his new-found confidence, DeMar became more of a team player. If the Raptors can get DeRozan to become a better ball-handler and passer, two areas he already improved slightly in this season, then they could have a player who is capable of taking over games and finishing games for years to come.

The biggest knocks on DeRozan’s game thus far have come as a result of his porous three-point shooting and below average defence. In terms of his defence, yes, there is still a ton of room for improvement, but strides were made this season. DeMar went from a rookie who either forgot about defence or was uninterested in it to a sophomore who began digging in on D and disturbing the opposing team’s offence. He got his hands in passing lanes, came up with loose balls and finished the season with an average of one steal per game.

In his final 28 games, DeMar averaged 1.6 steals per game, and averaged about two per game over his final 10. With his natural athleticism, young age and the defensive improvements already made this season, there is reason to believe that DeRozan can become an above-average defender some time in the near future.

That leaves the three-point shot as DeRozan’s main weakness, and the one weakness that he has shown little growth, if any in. Having said that, a year ago, DeRozan’s jump-shot and mid-range game were laughable. In 2010-2011, he turned it into his bread and butter. If DeMar devotes that same attention to his long-range shooting heading into next season, whenever that is, then I can easily see him becoming at least an average three-point shooter. And if he does that, then we’ll be looking at one of the more dynamic young scorers in the NBA.

But what I really like about DeMar through two seasons in the NBA is his attitude. He uses snubs, doubters and hurdles to motivate him and fuel his development instead of letting those hurdles trip him up. We saw it with his Rookie Game snub in his first season and we’ve seen it with the two Dunk Competition titles he was robbed of. Now we just have to hope that as the praise starts flowing in, DeMar remains as focused and determined as he’s ever been.

If he keeps a level head and continues to develop as he has through two seasons in the NBA, then DeMar DeRozan has a legitimate chance to become an NBA All Star – maybe even a franchise player. But this is far from a given, and the onus is on DeRozan, himself.

I hope you like pressure, DeMar.

Scott Carefoot’s take on DeMar DeRozan:

It’s hard to get a read on DeMar DeRozan’s ceiling. Some Raptors fans believe that he has All-Star potential, and I certainly don’t want to be the killjoy who claims that will never happen. However, he has a fair amount of improvement to make before he can even be considered among the top 10 players at his position. Some players never develop long-range shooting ability, superior court vision or above-average defensive instincts, but DeRozan is young enough (he’ll turn 22 in August) that he has plenty of time to work on those parts of his game. Perhaps his biggest challenge will be fixing his shooting mechanics so he can become at least somewhat of a threat from three-point range. He doesn’t have to turn into Ray Allen but if he can get to the point where he sinks around 30 percent of his treys like Dwyane Wade does, he’ll take a big step towards being regarded as an elite offensive player in this league.

Next in our series of player evaluations will be Joey Dorsey.