After the Raptors beat the Knicks at MSG on Monday night, I wrote that Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan were becoming quite the scoring duo. However I also insinuated that they were far from becoming one of the league’s best combos when I wrote that they were “not yet great, but capable, to say the least.”
Perhaps it’s time to rethink my words.
Bargnani and DeRozan followed up their impressive performances against the Knicks with a combined 56 points on 20-of-34 shooting (58.8 per cent) against the Cavs on Wednesday night, which included them combining for eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Through six games so far, Bargnani and DeRozan are combining for numbers that I can’t remember a Raptors duo putting together in years. The pair are combining for 42.5 points per game on over 51 per cent shooting from the field and over 47 per cent shooting from deep. In addition, they are going to the line a combined 10 times per game (this is the one area of their offensive game I would like to see improve), where they are hitting over 82 per cent of their free throws.
Now all of those numbers are well and good on the surface, but it’s when you look at where Andrea and DeMar rank among the league’s best scoring duos right now that really makes them stand out.
The Raptors are currently one of only three teams (along with the Heat and Magic), to have two players in the NBA’s top-20 in scoring, and Bargnani and DeRozan are currently the fourth best scoring combination in the NBA. Fourth-best.
The only combination of players scoring more than Bargnani and DeMar’s 42.5 points are LeBron James and Chris Bosh (51.5), Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (43.2) and Kevin Durant and James Harden (43.1). Out of those three combos, only LeBron and Bosh are shooting better as a pair than Bargs and DeMar.
That’s the other thing. Andrea and DeMar aren’t just scoring, they’re scoring at a very efficient and very composed pace. We all know that below average players can put up inflated, above average numbers on bad teams simply because someone has to get the ball and someone still has to score.
But this isn’t the case when it comes to Toronto’s dynamic duo through six games. In fact, Bargnani and DeRozan are only combining for about 30 field goal attempts per game, with neither of them having attempted more than 21 shots in a game yet this season. Contrast that with the combination of Durant and Westbrook, for example, who combine for about 36 shots per game.
One argument I’m hearing against Bargnani and DeRozan’s impressive start to the season and against the Raptors encouraging start in general is that they’ve had an easy schedule and have beaten lowly Cleveland for two of their three wins. While the Raps definitely haven’t had the toughest schedule to date, let me remind you that outside of those games against the Cavs, four of Toronto’s six games thus far have come against playoff teams from last season and four of six have come on the road. It may not be a grueling schedule, but it also hasn’t been a cake-walk.
No one is comparing Bargnani or DeRozan on their own to any of the game’s elite stars yet, and no one should. But as a duo on the offensive end through two weeks of the season, they’re in the same breath as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the only pair clearly more offensively effective than them right now includes LeBron James.
Yes, it’s early, but put your hand up if you thought Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan would be in this conversation for even one day of the season, let alone two weeks into it.