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Entering his eighth season in the NBA, DeMar DeRozan is set to eclipse Morris Peterson’s all time Raptors record for most games played. His $139 million dollar contract acts as the background to the significant milestone, essentially dubbing DeRozan as the new King of Toronto. Make no mistake, DeRozan earned the deal with his all-star level play, low-maintenance attitude, hard work and unyielding loyalty. It was speculated that other teams were willing to give him a four-year maximum, leaving the Raptors with little choice but to give him the max or close to it if they wanted to retain him.

The Coronation

The 2015/16 season cemented DeRozan (alongside the Raptors) as a regular season powerhouse, as he posted career-best numbers in various categories, improving his efficiency in the process. He finished the year ninth in the league in scoring, elevated his true shooting percentage to a respectable 55% and bumped his assist count upwards as well. By all accounts, DeMar DeRozan ‘ProvedEm’ and earned the right to be the face of the franchise.

dd-yoy-stats

His playoff performance left much to be desired however, as his efficiency and improved playmaking disappeared, adding fuel to the raging debate that never seems to subside (for more on this, check out the summer’s best DeRozan piece, William Lou’s definitive guide to arguing about DeMar).

What do the people want?

Far from an enigma, DeMar has become a known commodity in the midst of his NBA career. He’s a strong and willing slasher who works hard to improve each and every year; he’s a crafty scorer who can hurt you in multiple ways, and is an excellent free throw shooter to boot. His skill and character earned him a second Team USA call-up in the summer of 2016, as DeRozan added an Olympic gold medal to his list of accolades. And for his first seven years in a Raptors uniform, his work ethic and volume scoring were enough. He grew alongside Dwane Casey, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and even Kyle Lowry (who had little post season experience before the Raptors), as they all took their baby steps into the gladiatorial arena that is the NBA playoffs against Brooklyn’s seasoned veterans. DeRozan fought bravely, but was outmatched.

In his second foray into late April play, a surprisingly adept Wizards team annihilated him and his squad, throwing the Raptors’ entire strategy into question. Ujiri showed faith in the Casey-DeMar-Kyle trio despite that fiasco, the decision paying immediate dividends as Toronto recorded its best season in franchise history. But DeRozan did not play as large a part in the playoff run as he wanted – at one point even sitting out a 4th quarter in the crucial second game of the Pacers series.

A strong argument could be made that the likes of Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson, the team’s role players added by Ujiri, were responsible for keeping the team playing in late May (making for an unusually short off-season in Raptor land). DeMar’s playmaking was nowhere to be found, his assists per game dropping from 4 to under 3 in the post-season, and his shooting percentage to under 40% (stood at 44.6% in the regular season). Worse still, his offensive rating dropped from 113 in the regular season to 96 in the post-season, while his defensive rating dropped by 2 points. DeRozan was downright a net negative on the floor at times.

As dark as it may seem, every cloud has a silver lining. And in the NBA playoffs, context matters. When the 2016 playoffs got under way, DeMar was slated to appear in only his 12th career post-season game. To put that into perspective, here is the playoff appearance count for active players we often see excel in the post-season as focal points of the offense:

star-playoff-appearances

In all but the most rare cases, highly touted college players who enter the NBA fail to dominate in their first two seasons. Despite an abundance of talent, there is a mental and physical adjustment they need to make in order to translate their skills to the bigger stage. The exact same process applies to the playoffs – it’s simply a different game. DeMar spent four full seasons in the NBA without a single playoff appearance, and six without winning a post-season round – he needed to learn how to excel and win in the demanding new environment.

With the 2016/17 season about to kick off, both Raptor pundits and personnel know that their success will be measured not by winning 45, 50, or 55 out of the 82 scheduled games, but rather their playoff performance. The Toronto Raptors have finally become a playoff mainstay, set to make the post-season for a franchise best 4th straight season this year. Their expectations and metrics have been set accordingly – success in April and May is what matters. With 31 playoff games under his belt and without the possibility of pleading playoff inexperience, DeMar DeRozan’s success will be measured in the same way. He is a smart, hardworking individual that loves the game of basketball and wants to leave his mark on the league. In order to do that, he will need to use the regular season as proving ground to prepare for April – carrying improved playmaking and efficiency into the playoffs, becoming a catalyst for the success of the Raptors.

Does the King have a Mandate?

The Toronto Raptors organization showed their faith in the young man by inking him to the massive new contract on the first day of free agency. As is the law under Dwane Casey, his usage will remain high, perhaps climbing further if Lowry’s minutes are reduced. DeMar will be tasked with the responsibility of making plays for others as well as for himself. There are many who claim that DeRozan is essentially a finished product at this point, and his style of play will not change; that he is a volume scorer, period. However, he must realize that in order to take the next step and prove SI wrong (ranked 46th in the NBA among active players), DeMar will need to make the four guys on the floor around him better. By finding open teammates when the opposing defense inevitably collapses on him, he would increase their confidence and force the other team to guard them, thereby making his own life on offense that much easier. If the newly minted Olympic gold medalist truly wants to be a mainstay in the league’s top 20, he has no choice but to evolve as a player.

For better or worse, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors will be forever intertwined in the annals of NBA history, and Raptor fans will watch keenly as the new King of the Six faces a pivotal crossroads in his career and that of their beloved franchise. Let’s #ProveEm.


  • wtf 8838

    DeFrozen: A kingdom of isolation.

    • Noelle

      *sigh*, another misguided iso babble. Likely just trolling, but I’m on a brief roll, so I’ll bite.

      Do people even know what an iso play is? The team as a whole only go iso 8% of offensive plays. But DeMar does go iso 16% of the time. Hardly the dominant part of his game, but up there with other high usage scorers around the league. Well not up there with Harden (24%), Melo (24%), LeBron (19%), Galo (19%), but similar to Lillard (17%), Z-Bo (16%), GreekFreak (15.5%), Gay (15.4%), CP3 (15%), KD (15%), Irving (14%), PG (14%).

      Thing is he’s very, very good at it, as this produces scores equal to the best in the league, and more often than some considered better than him, even superstars. An iso with DeMar produces scores for the team at a 46.3% clip.
      For comparison,
      Player………..Frequency of possessions……… % of score produced
      DeMar ………16%………………………………………46.3%
      Harden………24% ……………………………………..41.5%
      Melo ……….. 24% ……………………………………..47.3%
      LeBron………19%………………………………………40.3%
      Galo………….19%………………………………………42%
      Lillard………..17%………………………………………46.2%
      Z-Bo………….16%………………………………………44.6%
      Greek Freak.15.5%…………………………………..41%
      Rudy Gay…..15.4%…………………………………..36.3% (ha, had to put that in)
      Chris Paul…. 15.2%………………………………….40.5%
      Durant……….15%……………………………………..46.5%
      Irving…………14%……………………………………..44%
      Paul George.14%…………………………………….38%

      So he’s nowhere near the king of running isos, but he’s damn near the king at producing results.
      I think some seem to be lumping in “Ball Handler” plays with isos, but that’s not what they are at all. But looking at those, which are mostly drives to the basket for DeMar, it’s interesting that DeMar and Kyle had virtually identical numbers of possessions (593 in 78 games, 582 in 77 games) that fit this category, but DeMar is far more effective in production
      Player………….. % of possesions/plays……… % resulting in scores
      DeMar …………….. 32.4%……………………………. 49.7%
      Lowry………………. 35.7%……………………………. 40.2%
      Reggie Jackson… 55.9%……………………………. 41.3%
      Lillard……………… 43%……………………………….. 40.9%
      Kemba……………..46.7%…………………………….. 41.8%
      CP3………………… 51.9%……………………………. 44.5%
      Westbrook……….. 35.4%……………………………. 40.6%
      Wall………………… 40.2………………………………. 35.4%
      Harden……………. 25..9%…………………………… 44.6%
      D Wade…………… 34.8%……………………………. 43.4%
      Curry………………. 26.2%……………………………. 44.3%
      Tony parker……… 51%………………………………. 46.5%
      Irving………………. 43.6%……………………………. 41.6%
      Rondo……………… 39.3%…………………………… 37%
      Paul george……… 21.2%……………………………. 39.2%
      Lebron…………….. 21.6%……………………………. 42.3%

      I’ll stop there. Sooo, in what are technically “ISOs”, DeMar is right up there with the best in the league (Melo, Lillard, KD) in productivity at what he does 16% of the time, Though wrong in lumping it in as ISOs, in “Ball Handler” plays, which he does 32% of the time, he’s far and away the best in the league in efficiency of producing team results, with only Tony Parker even with 3% points of him, and well ahead of players like Lowry, LeBron, KD, Westbrook, CP3, Curry, Wade, PG. Casey would be an idiot to not get the ball in his hands A LOT!!!

      • Mike$

        Hey great job with the stats. Just going to say that ball handler plays refer to being the ball handler in the pick and roll (some might not know that). And just going to add that frequency of score isn’t the best thing to look at because it only refers the number of times the ball handler scores at least 1 point off the pick and roll. So basically if you run the pick and roll 3 times and each time shoot free throws and make half of them for 3 points, your % resulting in scores is 100%. If someone else runs the pick and role 3 times, misses two shots and the last shot is a 3 for a 4 point play, the person with 3 possessions and 4 points has a 33% frequency of score. In this way the stat is really bias towards people who go to the rim and biased against 3 pt shooters.

        That said though in points per possession DD is still top 5 in the NBA above some of the great PnR players in the NBA like harden and chris paul. The only player significantly better than him was curry who blew the rest of the competition out of the water. DD was an absolute monster last year scoring off the pick and roll and I believe a very underrated aspect of his game.

        • Wild-ling #1

          As above, Mike$. People can say/believe what they like, sure … but I’m glad some of the peeps have our All Star/Olympian’s “back”. 🙂

          GO RAPS!!

        • Dunkenstein

          Ahead of Harden?

          Source?

          • Mike$

            nba.com

            under stats you go to player tracking and one of the sub categories is play type, pick and roll ball handler. It takes a little work because it shows everyone with 10 games and a minimum of 10 possessions. So i usually only count players with 100 possessions because anything lower is a pretty small sample size.

      • Wild-ling #1

        Thanks for this, Noelle. Really – thanks. 🙂

        • Noelle

          You’re welcome 🙂 some of us gotta try and use what we can to put things into perspective. on the first Raptors jersey that’s going to hang from the rafters

      • Dunkenstein

        I’m surprised at those numbers… I’d like to see his percentage in end of quarter situations.

        • Noelle

          I can’t find stats on end of quarter possessions, but the focus on them is part of the reason some fans continue endlessly on this iso rhetoric. If one paid attention to other teams as closely, they’d see that EVERY team in the NBA goes iso almost exclusively in those situations, and the reasons are well documented. Thing is, people see it all the time with the Raps, and somehow translate absolute maximum (opponents sometimes get that end of quarter possession, eh) 4 possessions a game into “all Raps do all game is run isos”,,,,, when the stats say they do it 8% of the time. At least the end of quarter “translation” to “all game long” is my theory, because I can’t think of anything else that would have people seeing 8% of the time as dominant in play types.

  • Mike$

    Going to be the best raptor in history by the time he’s done here imo. looking forward to another all star year

    • Derek

      yeah pretty sure even the haters can’t argue against that.

  • steve fisher

    DD can become more of a TEAM player when and IF he realizes that his forcing sooo many bad or no shots = a turnover every time he does it which GIVES their opponent at least 6-8 more possessions and chances to score !!! This probably more than any other factor is responsible for at least 6-8 losses which obviously is huge !!! These BAD shots have little to NO chance of going in as compared to passing to a team mate for a good shot that has about a 50% or better chance of scoring !! To often his 4 teammates end up standing around doing NOTHING because their is little or NO chance of ever getting it back from the ” black hole ” similar to the Rudy Guy situation ! When you combine that with mediocre D at best he makes a perfect TRADE prospect !! IF he realizes how unnecessary AND damaging his shot forcing is he first MUST realize it is a BIG problem and secondly must decide to CHANGE and only take good shots AND work much harder on D keeping HIS check CONTAINED while CHALLENGING EVERY shot with a hand in the face !! The ball hogging / forced bad shots combined with mediocre DEFENCE is why SI ranked him 46 th in the league ! Since other teams were willing to offer him a max contract he is too valuable an asset to just let him walk for nothing !!! If those 2 major weaknesses are not cleaned up it will NEVER leed to a championship with the super tight D in playoffs! The last 2 years their opponents simply double teamed DD making it VERY tough to score since he is so stubborn and therefore far TOO predictable !!! Simple choice Demar CHANGE or GET TRADED !!!! GO RAPS GO !!!

    • Dunkenstein

      To underscore how wrong you are, if DD had become a FAN or put on the trade block, the whole league would line up for his services.

  • Wild-ling #1

    I thought this was well-written, argued and balanced. I Liked the Lou piece, too … but while I agreed with nearly every criticism there, I prefer your “take” on the possibility/manner of DeMar continuing to improve.

    Thanks for this! 🙂

    • Dunkenstein

      Agreed. DD has drastically improved his game. He head next to zero handle when he came to the Raps. Known as an athletic stud with not much else. He’s become an excellent ball handler and is deadly down low.

      To get to the next level he needs to improve his 3 point shooting and of course his D.

      • Derek

        I would say more his ball distribution.. I don’t think a three is really ever something he is going to be used for.. if he can find open men down low and on the kick outs to the three point line I really think this will be incredibly valued for him when he gets doubled on the block n such..

        Cheers have a nice day 😀