With Rudy Gay no longer on the Toronto Raptors, life is about to get a heck of a lot tougher for DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan had the benefit this season of not seeing many double teams or having opponents top defenders due to sharing the court with Gay for large stretches. Sure, there were issues with having Gay and DeRozan on the court together, but DeRozan benefitted from playing alongside Gay.
It became apparent some of the perks DeRozan had been enjoying this season would no longer be there against the San Antonio Spurs when they stuck Kawhi Leonard on DeRozan for most of the game. When DeRozan wasn’t fighting through screens he wasn’t getting passes because Leonard would stick to him like glue. It seemed as through when DeRozan would hoist up a jumper he had a hand in his face and often was off balance while shooting.
Or, later in the game, when DeRozan got into a groove shooting the ball in the second quarter, the Spurs switched things up by throwing Danny Green on him and sneaking in some subtle double teams.
When DeRozan went on a bit of a run the Spurs quickly switched Leonard back onto him to slow him down. DeRozan started the game 5-11 from the field and then went 1-5 to finish the game.
In short, DeRozan had to scrap, claw and work for every touch he got despite scoring 13 points in the first half and finishing with 19 points.
DeRozan claimed after the game he relished to play against one of the NBA’s top defenders.
“He’s tough but those challenges are definitely fun for me,” DeRozan boasted to me. “I look forward to playing a guy like that. He has great hands, long arms. It’s fun for me.”
It didn’t look like a lot of fun for DeRozan as he was pushed out of the paint. Against the Spurs there were a lot of times when DeRozan was content settling for shots beyond the arc. This year he is shooting a modest 35% from beyond the arc and is only shooting better than 50% on 17-24 foot jumpers when he’s shooting from the center of the court.
According to NBA.com/Stats, DeRozan is 8-28 (28%) from left side center beyond the arc and 3-15 from right side centre. He’s better from the corners as he’s 8-17 from the left side and 5-8 from the right side.
Still, despite some modest success, shooting deep jumpers isn’t DeRozan’s forte at this stage of his development.
If his shooting percentages and shot selection this season is any indication, if DeRozan is not attacking defenses then his scoring will likely plummet because he hasn’t shown he’s comfortable shooting from beyond the arc or being a player who score without creating off the dribble.
According to MySynergy, the stats back this up as 19% of DeRozan’s touches this season have come via the pick-and-roll, 15% have come off of screens and 13% have come in transition.
This season 115 of DeRozan’s 337 field goal attempts have come in the paint, but against San Antonio, he didn’t attempt a single field goal attempt in the paint until the 6:40 mark of the second quarter. He was able to draw the foul and made the bucket, but for a player that has great hops and who tries to use his athletic advantages whenever he can, settling for jumpers and three’s isn’t the recipe for success.
DeRozan attempted 16 field goals against the Spurs, but only three of those came from within the paint.
“Teams are going to key on him and they are going to get on him,” Dwane Casey told me after the loss to the Spurs. “I thought he did a good job of moving the ball when he didn’t have his shot, but Kawhi (Leonard) is one of the best defenders in the league and I still thought that DeMar did a good job offensively. I think we need to do a better job of screening, helping him and being physical offensively as well as defensively. That would help him quite a bit to get open and get his shot.”
An interesting twist is DeRozan morphed into more a distributor as he dished our four assists in the first quarter before ending the game with seven dimes.
But, for DeRozan, it’s looking like life will get tougher for him as opposing defenses will make him work for everything on the offensive end as he tries to find ways to score and be efficient shooting the ball.
It will be interesting to see how DeRozan reacts and adjusts to this increased attention and scrutiny.