Given that DeMar DeRozan sent Raptors fans into a frenzy last night by nailing the team’s first game-winning buzzer beater in over six years, and the fact that his four-year, $38 million extension signed at the beginning of the season was highly criticized, it’s probably a good time to take a look at DeRozan’s numbers at the midway point of the season.
The basic numbers paint an impressive portrait for the 23-year-old fourth-year swingman, especially when compared to other listed shooting guards in the NBA, and that lack of depth at the shooting guard position after the elite group at the top (most of which is aging outside of James Harden) is one reason why supporters thought DeMar could live up to the contract, which kicks in next season.
DeRozan is sixth among qualifying shooting guards in scoring at 17.3 points per game and his 43.9 field goal percentage is actually better than two (James Harden and Joe Johnson) of the five shooting guards ahead of him in scoring. In addition, he’s sixth in rebounds per game at the two-spot, fifth in minutes per game and fourth in free throws attempted per game, behind only Harden, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade.
Of course, we’ve learned over the years that those basic numbers can often paint just as misleading a portrait as an impressive one, and a big part of DeRozan’s impressive ranks in some of those areas have to do with his minutes and his overall opportunity to be one of the main offensive options on an underwhelming team. Once we dive into the advanced metrics, it quickly becomes evident that DeMar’s improvements aren’t as drastic as some Raptors fans want to believe (a lot of that has to do with his near month-long slump in January).
DeRozan’s so-so PER of 14.21 is 24th among shooting guards that log at least 20 minutes per game, and his underwhelming true shooting percentage of .513 is a disappointing 44th among 66 listed two-guards. Not to mention that his rebound rate is 20th among twos (Terrence Ross is a better rebounder by rate) and his assist percentage of 9.9 is actually down from 10.8 last season (though anyone who’s watched DeMar distribute the ball this season knows his overall court vision has definitely improved, especially on his attacks to the rim, where he now regularly looks for open teammates when double-teams come as opposed to attacking with a tunnel vision approach).
None of those advanced stats are to say that DeRozan is having a bad year, but again, they certainly indicate that his improvements may be slightly exaggerated and that those perceived improvements might have a lot to do with an inflated role on a bad young team. Then again, perhaps the fact that he’s getting this opportunity to be a near No. 1 option will enhance his development, as for example, I highly doubt he would have made the aforementioned strides in his court vision if not for the amount of times the ball has been put in his hands over the last couple of years.
Overall, there’s no doubt that we’ve seen an improved and more polished DeMar DeRozan this season, but those improvements have been minor in most areas and the season still filled with inconsistencies in his performances from month to month, week to week, game to game and even quarter to quarter.
His clutch fourth quarter performance in Orlando (Beyond the actual buzzer-beater, DeRozan scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the fourth, including eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in the final 2:48 alone) against a good defender in Arron Afflalo could be just the kind of “monkey off the back” performance DeRozan needed to reinvigorate what was looking like a breakout season before the new year, but Raptors fans should remain cautious with their optimism until DeMar starts stringing together a slew of impressive performances again and proves he can become a $9.5 million player consistently.
It’s not his fault he was given that pay raise, and he really is reputed to be one of the hardest working young players in the league, but rightly or wrongly, that “9.5″ number will be DeRozan’s blessing and curse until he finds said consistency.