We’re going to handle preseason player profiles differently this year on RaptorBlog. For each player on the 2012-13 Raptors’ active roster, Joseph Casciaro and I are going to email our thoughts back and forth and then post the resulting conversation on the blog. It’s an edgy new form of journalism! Or something…
DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, 6’7″, 216 lbs.
2011-12 stats: 63 games, 35.0 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.8 SPG, 42.2 FG%, 26.1 3P%, 81.0 FT%, 12.8 PER
Scott: It’s time to discuss the Raptors’ “golden boy”, DeMar DeRozan. I get accused of being a hater because I don’t regard DeRozan with the same level of esteem as most Raptors fans do. The way I see it, if I blindly accept that DeRozan’s going to be a future All-Star while overlooking the multiple flaws in his game, I’m no different than the type of fans that I’ve wasted for too much time arguing with on the Internet.
Here’s what I see with DeRozan: He does exactly two things well — dunking and getting to the free throw line. There’s a perception among his fans that he’s a good mid-range shooter, but he made just 38 percent of his shots between 10 and 15 feet from the basket last season and he had a 35 percent success rate on shots from 16 to 23 feet away. It’s nice that he’s trying to add a three-point shot to his arsenal, but he’ll need to shoot a lot better than 26 percent from that range for it to be a good idea to keep jacking up treys.
The Raptors had the second-worst offense in the NBA last season in terms of efficiency, scoring just 100.8 points per 100 possessions. That’s likely to happen when the player who takes 385 more field goal attempts than any other player on your team makes such a low percentage of those shots. Maybe a healthy Bargnani will reduce him to a secondary scoring role — otherwise, I fear the Raptors’ offense will continue to struggle and they’ll almost certainly miss the playoffs again.
Joseph: Based on what we’ve seen from DeRozan so far, the only way he’ll get to an All Star game is if he puts up a big scoring average and the fact that he did it inefficiently goes unnoticed, but I’m not counting on it.
I expect to see an improved DeRozan when the 2012-13 season tips off, but he’s going to have to be much improved in most areas of the game if he’s going to be worth a raise as a restricted free agent next summer. That means he has to score more efficiently, become a more consistent defender, rebound the ball better, handle the ball better and make smarter decisions with the ball in his hands.
Fans are fixated on his athleticism, and I won’t deny still being intrigued by what kind of ceiling an athlete like DeMar has, but I also can’t overlook the fact that three years in, he’s still not much more than an “athlete,” and if that’s all he is after year four, then the brief DeRozan era in Toronto will likely come to an end.
The drafting of Terrence Ross may not have been done solely for the purpose of pushing or replacing DeMar, but you can bet it makes DeRozan a hell of a lot more expendable.
Scott: It’s worth pointing out that DeRozan is just 23 years old so it’s not like he’s reached the standard “prime years” yet. The problem is that I just haven’t seen much improvement in his game over the past two seasons. I can appreciate that he tried to add a mid-range game in his second season and then a three-point shot last season, but are you really “adding” anything positive when you can’t hit those shots with any kind of consistency?
With the extra offensive weapons on this year’s roster, I’m hoping DeRozan won’t feel the need to force up as many contested 18-foot shots as he did last season. I’d like to see his assists and free throw attempts go up while his overall field goal attempts go down. If he can average 15 points and three assists on 45 percent shooting while getting to the line over six times per game, I would see that as real progress and a sign that he could be a valuable part of this franchise’s future.
Joseph: He definitely hasn’t reached those peak years yet, he was very raw coming out of his freshman season at USC and I understand that there’s still time for him to develop, but I thought he would be a more promising young player at this point, especially after the way he finished his sophomore season in 2010-11.
That year, he ranked seventh among shooting guards in scoring, and of the top-25, he ranked fifth in field goal percentage (though his .530 true shooting percentage still left much to be desired). After two seasons, he looked like one of the more promising young two-guards (on the offensive end) in the league. But last year, despite actually jumping to fifth in scoring at his position, his true shooting percentage dropped to .503, and he looked more like a quintessential young chucker.
I don’t doubt his desire to improve or his work ethic, but I’m beginning to doubt whether or not he has the fundamental basketball skills to even become a second tier star. And I’m not saying he has to develop into a star to have a long and successful NBA career, but if he’s just going to be a solid rotation player, I can’t see the Raptors exactly jumping at the opportunity to lock him up long-term.
Perhaps that’s the reason to be most encouraged about DeRozan heading into 2012-13 though, as for all intents and purposes, he’s playing for his first big NBA contract, and if that doesn’t bring out the best in him, I don’t know what will.
Scott: Everything I’ve heard about DeRozan indicates that he’s had a consistently strong work ethic throughout his NBA career, so I don’t see how a contract year is going to make him work even harder. Is he going to give 110 percent this season?
I actually like DeRozan and I would love to see him take a leap forward this season both for his own sake and for the benefit of the Raptors. I just think his fans need to manage their expectations about the upper limits of his potential, in that the chances of him being a 20 points per game scorer on a winning team are somewhere between slim and none. If Dwane Casey can get him to play solid defense, to defer to his teammates more on the offensive end, and to not be so much of a black hole when he gets the ball on the elbow or the wing, then I’ll embrace him as a part of this team’s future.
Joseph: I’d say most pro athletes with a reputable work ethic go about 95%, but think they’re going full throttle. They then come to know what full throttle really means when they’re suddenly playing for a contract.
Getting back on topic, his unwavering supporters really do believe DeRozan has superstar potential, which I don’t understand. But his harshest critics seem to believe that if he’s not going to be that star, he’s a worthless waste of space, which also isn’t fair for a 23-year-old work in progress who has had some moments of brilliance. One thing I harped on at various points last season was that the Raptors don’t need DeMar to be some sort of savior (save that for Jonas). But with Terrence Ross on board now and other young players ahead of DeRozan in the organization’s plans, I do wonder just how good he’ll have to be this season to assure himself a future in Toronto.
One thing he probably has going for him is the lack of young star power at the two-guard position. If you look at the crop of top-tier shooting guards right now, most of them are slowly beginning to regress and are on the wrong side of 30, and other than James Harden and maybe Eric Gordon, I don’t see a young player that looks ready to take the torch from Kobe, D.Wade, Manu, or even Joe Johnson. So maybe if DeRozan has a breakout year, he and his agent can sell the Raptors on the fact that he has the potential to be one of the better players at his position going forward.