Oliver Macklem is the producer of RaptorBlog Radio and is the man responsible for landing us the big guests we’ve gotten for the podcast over the last year. In his first actual post for us, on deadline day for the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan to come to terms on an extension before the season starts, Oliver takes a look at some interesting numbers behind DeRozan’s evolving offensive game.

By: Oliver Macklem

It is the bane of his basketball existence. When DeMar DeRozan can’t sleep at night, I fear it’s because he’s having a recurring nightmare in which he is left alone for a potential game winning three-pointer as time expires. DeRozan is an inconsistent defender (matching up better with bigger two-guards, as opposed to smaller, quicker ones), he has limited passing ability and doesn’t rebound at the rate many think he is capable of. But when people discuss his biggest flaw, the jump shot is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

Consider the following: Of the 20 shooting guards who attempted the most field goals from 16-23 feet last season, DeRozan had the second worst shooting percentage, but took the third most amount of shots from this range:

Player FG attempts/game from 16-23 feet (rank) FG% on attempts from 16-23 feet (rank)
Kobe Bryant 7.7 (1st)  41 (T9th)
Monta Ellis 6.2 (2nd)  37.5 (18th)
DeMar DeRozan 5.5 (3rd)  35 (19th)
Nick Young 5.2 (4th)  44 (2nd)
Rip Hamilton 4.7 (5th)  38 (T17th)
Leandro Barbosa 2.8 (T19th)  30 (20th)

This was a serious regression for DeMar, who in 2010-11, averaged 40% from 16-23 feet. Those who explain this by saying he didn’t work on his jumper last off-season are taking the easy, wrong answer. As we see here, his jump shot improved significantly – taking it from disgusting, to just bad:

Year 3-PT attempts/game 3PT%
2011 0.6 9.6
2012 1.5 26.1

The drop off in efficiency is likely because DeRozan took on the role of primary offensive option for more than half of the season with Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup. Defences focused on him while Bargnani wasn’t there to pull help-defenders out to the three-point line.

Increased defensive attention meant DeRozan was only able to attempt 5.9 shots inside of 10 feet. Two years ago, he averaged 6.4 shots inside of 10 feet on fewer total field goal attempts. Defences forced him to take difficult jumpers last year and his percentages suffered as a result.

This year, there are two things that will help take pressure off of his much maligned jimmy to increase those percentages. Firstly, DeMar will slide back to being the second option behind Bargnani. On some nights he may even become the third option behind Bargs and Kyle Lowry. This should remove some of the help-defence that bogged him down and should create some easy catch-and-shoot situations.

Secondly, DeMar showed off a new post-up game this preseason that has the potential to pay huge dividends…

Last year, of the 16 shooting guards who attempted at least one shot per game from 3-9 feet, DeMar had the 2nd best FG% from that range, with only Joe Johnson’s devastating floater ranking better. As the graph shows, DeRozan is far superior to the rest of the league from this distance and he can increase his attempts from that range by catching the ball closer to the basket in post-up situations.

As opposed to needing three or four dribbles to get into the paint, DeMar can use one dribble and a hop-step to get into his comfort zone. He is also experimenting with using his back to the basket and punishing smaller twos. All of this is made possible by fighting for position and then catching the ball as close to the basket as possible, something that his added muscle and strength from this summer should help him with.

The post-up game should help his jump shot as well. Defenders will be more willing to give up the lesser of two evils – the jumper as opposed to the drive.

In our RaptorBlog Radio season preview podcast with Coach Dwane Casey, I wanted to ask him if DeMar’s new post-up game was something the fourth year pro from USC initiated, or something the coaching staff planted in his head. If the latter is the case, it might be less likely to stick.

Although it appears to have been an idea pushed on DeMar by the staff, both sides have preached their commitment to it. The other person who appears to be committed to DeMar’s post-up game is Kyle Lowry. Many times in the preseason, we saw Lowry directing DeMar to get his behind on the block. Having a point guard – who as Casey says, would be the type of parent that disciplines with a strap – who is going to keep stressing the post to DeMar gives me confidence that this won’t be just a flash in the pan.

Can this new post element turn DeRozan into an All Star? The simple answer is no, but it will go a long way in helping him get there.

DeMar must first improve other elements of his game (namely the aforementioned defence, rebounding and crooked jumper), but the 23-year-old has the tools to improve these facets, and perhaps the aggressive nature he develops from his post-ups will spread to other parts of his game.

That might be optimistic, but it’s not optimistic to say that we will be pleasantly surprised if DeMar continues to operate out of the post.

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