DeMar DeRozan Is Quietly Playing The Best Basketball Of His Career
by 12 November 2018, 4:05 PM
Under Gregg Popovich, DeMar DeRozan is elevating his game, while simultaneously maintaining the Spurs’ status as a contender.
While DeMar DeRozan was a four-time All-Star and the franchise’s leading scorer in Toronto, he could be making an even bigger name for himself in San Antonio. Although the season’s just over ten games in, DeRozan has elevated his level of play in multiple areas and has the Spurs winning games in a jam-packed Western Conference.
Could Gregg Popovich’s brilliance put DeRozan on the verge of superstardom?
The San Antonio Spurs are 7-4 this season, and DeRozan is the biggest reason why. In his debut season with the team, he’s averaging career highs in assists and rebounds per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage, and is averaging the second-most points per game for any season in his career.
As a star in Toronto who could never carry his team enough to achieve playoff success, a change of scenery might be exactly what DeRozan, and the Spurs, were looking for.
The biggest change in DeRozan’s shooting this season is that he no longer feels the need to hoist up threes at the rate he was in doing so in Toronto, especially last season. While DeRozan is taking almost 1.5 more shots per game than last year, he’s also taking 1.5 fewer three-point attempts, which has been the weakest area of his offensive repertoire throughout his career. DeRozan’s willingness to shoot within the arc has allowed him to be more selective with his shots, and his field goal percentage is seeing a boost as a result.
To go off of that, DeRozan has significantly improved on his ability to shoot two-point jumpers. He’s making eight percent more shots from mid-range this year compared to last year while taking more than 1.5 more shots from there this season. Not only is DeRozan selecting his shots better, but he’s also focusing his game on the areas he’s most skilled in, including his mid-range shooting.
DeRozan is also making more of his shots close to the basket, which is another factor contributing to his shooting efficiency. Although his shooting percentages from less than five feet away this year and last year are fairly similar, he’s shooting eight percent better this from five to nine feet than last year. It seems that DeRozan’s focus on shooting twos has helped him improve his ability to shoot in almost every area on the court.
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Finally, DeRozan is taking, and making, more open looks than he was last year. Compared to last season, he’s averaging 1.6 more shot attempts per game when the closest defender is four to six feet away, and is shockingly making those shots 16% more often than last year.
Although the reasoning behind his improved shooting efficiency while open is unclear, he could just be in more of a rhythm, considering he’s taking more of them. Nonetheless, DeRozan’s improved ability to find open space on the floor is helping his efficiency skyrocket.
Passing, Team Chemistry
Although DeRozan has always been known primarily as a scorer, he’s clearly trying to shift that perception this year. As stated earlier, he’s averaging more assists per game than any other year in his career by 1.5, and has improved his passing efficiency as well. Not only is he getting his teammates involved, but he’s doing so in a way that helps the Spurs win games rather than for the purpose of padding stats.
To start, DeRozan’s high assist numbers have been a result of his overall willingness to share the basketball more. From last year to this year, DeRozan’s assist percentage (AST%) has increased five percent, proving his increased unselfishness within Coach Popovich’s system.
Also, DeRozan is improving the efficiency of his passes. His assist to turnover ratio (AST:TO) has gone up 0.5 from last year, showing how he can distribute the ball without turning it over at a high rate. Although he’s not the team’s point guard, Popovich is clearly trying to turn him into a more dynamic ball handler (partially due to necessity after the season-ending injury to starting point guard Dejounte Murray), and the benefits are reaping.
While DeRozan has done an impressive job of involving other members of the offense, the team’s big men have given him great chances, too. The most and second most assists to DeRozan have come from LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, involving them as potential distributors that defenses must account for. To add on, DeRozan is shooting almost 70% when he receives a pass from Gasol, which seems absurdly high for passes coming from someone of Gasol’s stature.
Although DeRozan has never been known as a lockdown defender, he is making some marginal improvements to his game in that area this year. To start, DeRozan is averaging almost twice as many defensive rebounds per game (6.0) as he was last year. Although defensive rebounds aren’t the most telling stat for a player’s ability on that end of the floor, this one does highlight a clear desire to secure the ball after opposing players’ missed shots.
Finally, DeRozan is trying to establish himself as a solid perimeter defender this season. As a primary defender, DeRozan is forcing opposing shooters to miss seven percent more three-pointers and four percent more shots from greater than 15 feet away. While this is obviously not the only area of his defended shots, it’s the ones he will see the highest frequency of as a guard who defends primarily around the perimeter, and it’s clear he’s trying to contain that area as well as he can.
Even though we’re only about an eighth of the way through the season, it seems that DeMar DeRozan has made clear improvements in almost every facet of his game. Not only are his individual stats increasing, but the Spurs are winning games too, and are currently sitting at fourth place in the Western Conference.
Unless these trends die off as the season goes along, look for DeRozan to lead the Spurs to their continued reign of basketball supremacy, and possibly become a surprise MVP candidate along the way.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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