Not since the days of Chris Bosh have the Toronto Raptors had anyone worthy of getting an All-Star nod. Enter DeMar DeRozan, who is making a strong case to represent Canada in New Orleans come February.
His raw averages in the standard categories are all career-highs: 21.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in a staggering 37.9 minutes per game put him in the argument as one of the best shooting guards in the league. Granted that position isn’t incredibly deep, but his averages don’t lie.
His shooting percentages hurt his case slightly because the increase in production hasn’t been followed by a subsequent increase in his percentages this season. But a closer look into those numbers show he has another career-high in terms of usage percentage with the 15th highest rate in the league at 27.5 percent. That increased workload has led to defenses keying in on him, which in turn provides some explanation for the lower field goal percentage this season when compared to the season prior.
Like most good scorers, DeRozan gets a good amount of points from the free throw line. He has learned to use his slashing ability more, instead of relying on his still-developing jumper. The USC product makes great use of the ball fake off the bounce, luring clumsy defenders into the air to help him get to the line where he shoots a reliable 78.5 percent. He takes the eighth most attempts from the charity stripe in the league and eases in 5.3 of his 21.3 points each game.
He has become a better playmaker in the days since Rudy Gay was sent to the Sacramento Kings, which has led to a surprising surge for his team. He has averaged 4.5 dimes per game since December 8, as well as getting more “hockey assists” as a ball-mover in the Raptors offense. His plus/minus rating is a very solid plus 6.1 during that span compared to his overall plus 1.9 for the season.
Defensively, he still has a ways to go, but his overall production against his counterparts each game swings heavily in his favor. According to 82Games.com, DeRozan bests his opponents with a plus 3.7 PER rating when at the shooting guard position. In a smaller sample size at the small forward position, he crushes his opponents with a plus 10.2 in the same rating. It is one thing to be the better player and have the talent, but it’s another thing to actually go out and prove it each night.
Regarding his case for All-Star, he will face stiff competition from guys like Jeff Teague, Arron Afflalo and Lance Stephenson’s Sir-Lance-Alot campaign for a reserve spot in the east. That’s forgetting to mention that his own teammate, Kyle Lowry, is also making a reasonable bid to represent Toronto. However, given that the Raptors are the undisputed leader in the Atlantic division, largely in part to DeRozan, he has a strong case for his first All-Star appearance.
In NBA circles there is this mystical force called “the leap” that is assigned to promising players who suddenly figure things out to become great. While DeRozan might not have taken that leap towards the NBA elite just yet, he has certainly taken strides in leadership, efficiency and dependability as a feature player. And that should be rewarded with a trip to New Orleans.
Is DeMar DeRozan deserving of an All-Star nod?
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