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NBA / Mar 14, 2014 / 1:45 pm

The NBA’s Best Kept Secret: All-Star DeMar DeRozan Just Getting Started

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

DeMar DeRozan is currently in the midst of his best season as a professional basketball player. Quietly, the former Trojan has stepped up to the proverbial plate in his fifth year with the Toronto Raptors, and has developed into the outright go-to guy on a team that has longed for a leader on the court for years.

Despite the career-high numbers and the All-Star selection, DeRozan’s value as one of the legitimate top shooting guards in the league continues to be overlooked. DeRozan isn’t hiding his true talent and abilities. In fact, it is the opposite, as his stock as one of the NBA’s best shooting guards is kept secret by a small-market–in NBA standards–and by a team in the East not named the Heat or the Pacers. The truth is that DeRozan’s improvement and worth simply falls through the cracks in a league driven by large markets and commercialized franchises.

Regardless of how or why DeRozan’s game is underrated, this does not seem to be in the mind of the man himself. DeRozan is a “team-first” type of player, which was ever so present in his recent chat with former three-time NBA champion Rick Fox for the American Express Off Court segment on NBA.com. When discussing his first time selection as an NBA All-Star this past February, DeRozan deflected the individual merits and credited the help and work of his teammates in Toronto for getting him the invitation to New Orleans. He also made the following remarks to Stephen Brotherston about his teammates earlier this season: “As long as we are winning, we got 15 faces as long as we are winning. I’m not into (being) an individual, whatever I do I have to thank my team for it as well–for my success–because we are all in it together.”

However, let’s breakdown the individual improvements that have accelerated DeRozan’s game. He accredits his commitment to his overall game in the offseason for the rise in his numbers. Offensively, he is playing with more confidence than ever, which has continued to accumulate with the more experience he has as a pro. For example, from February 25 to March 2, DeRozan scored 30-plus points in each contest for a three-game stretch. In January, he went off against Dallas for a career-high 40 points.

With the trade of Rudy Gay this past December to the Sacramento Kings, DeRozan had the opportunity to step in to be the outright go-to guy for the Raptors. He grabbed that chance by the horns and has not disappointed. As the young leader of the squad up north, DeRozan maintains his focus to set the offensive tone from the opening tip to the sound of the final buzzer. Setting the offensive tone for DeRozan typically means using his athleticism to generate energy on the floor, creating for his teammates to get easy buckets or displaying aggressiveness in order to take advantage of the defense.

Let’s take a moment to break down DeRozan’s superb numbers this season. First, he is averaging a career-high in scoring (22.7), which is second-best among shooting guards–behind James Harden–and ninth overall in the NBA. He is also averaging a career-high in minutes per game (38.0), which is again second-highest among shooting guards–behind James Harden–and fourth-highest overall in the NBA.

In his NBA.com interview with Rick Fox, DeRozan discussed how he has learned through his experience in the league how important it is to get to the free throw line. Therefore, part of his game has been developed to use his aggressiveness to attack the rim and try to get opponents into the penalty at a faster rate. You can see this focus come into fruition this season, as he only trails James Harden–which isn’t surprising since Harden mostly lives at the charity stripe–among the league’s shooting guards for free throw attempts per game (7.8).

Keep reading to see how his jumper has improved…

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  • Paul Antonelli

    Yes he is

  • 2cents

    Great artcile and insight into one of my fave players in the game today. Thank you

  • Newmarket_Brian

    If I read this “Toronto is a small market” crap one more time, I’m going to lose it. The metropolitan population places it among the continent’s 5 or 6 largest centres. The NBA does very well here, with attendance averaging over 18,000 per game, or 91% capacity.
    Only NBA commentators seem to consistently make this mistake, which could be avoided with about 30 seconds’ worth of research.
    New Orleans….Portland…Salt Lake City – THOSE are small markets, not Toronto.
    As to DeRozan – I was at an season-seatholders’ event inside the Raptors’ dressing room the night he was drafted. Our Assistant GM at the time, Maurizio Gherardini, came and spoke to us after the selection. He said that they decided on DeRozan when they learned what a person of character he was. Bryan Colangelo and the scouts were already sold on his b-ball skills.

  • JAY

    Even San Antonio is a smaller market than Toronto. Obviously SA is a much better franchise, but speaking solely in regards to the markets, San Antonio is a smaller market.

  • Newmarket_Brian

    Hi Jay:
    The list of smaller markets than Toronto is a LOT longer than the list of larger ones.
    I’m not entirely sure I know what you mean by San Antonio being a “better” franchise. Over the years, it’s certainly been a better team by a considerable margin – is that what you’re referring to?

  • kameko

    91% capacity is nothing. Thats good enough for 18th in the league. Sacramento is definitely a small market and yet they reach on average 93.4% capacity.

    2 of 3 of the ‘small market’ cities you named have better attendance than we do, while the Jazz are right below us at 19th in the league.

    Small market also refers to relevance and exposure, something we sorely lack in the US.

  • David Niddam-Dent

    Alright as a resident of Toronto I may be able to clear something up here, as pertaining to the small market stuff. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America (behind New York, LA, and Mexico City) and has the mayor who smokes the most crack (and is probably the subject of the most late night talk show jokes ever). We’re a huge city and a giant sports market. There are two problems for the Raptors, one of which is that first and foremost TO is a hockey town. We are Leafs, not Raptors Nation. It will probably always be this way. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they share the same calendar space as the Leafs, and while because they play in the same stadium their home games aren’t on the same night, there is still a sports game almost every night. This obviously cuts into the market share. The second thing about the market share is that after the Leafs, everyone is fighting for a bigger slice of pie. While the Raptors as a probable playoff team does attract more attention, and they are probably the #2 team, they have to fight with the Blue Jays (MLB), Argonauts (CFL), TFC (MLS), and even Toronto Rock (NLL) for fans. And while its easy for me to say I’ma fan of the Raptors, when I’m a fan of three other teams it hardly makes for a strong market. MLSE, the owner of most of these teams, ask for crazy money for tickets, and so when you add it up the Raps just aren’t that big of a market. The NBA is, but the Raptors aren’t.

    GO RAPTORS

    But Leafs Nation all the way baby

  • JAY

    I’m not only referring to the team. The Spurs are a world class organization from top to bottom. And it’s been like that in San Antonio for years.

  • Onetwothree

    Toronto IS NOT a small market team… Here’s the proof: http://www.forbes.com/nba-valuations/list/

    So stop ranting with stupid things such as seat prices, the leafs, and attendance… We are the 18th highest valuable team in the Nba. Consider the fact that we’ve never had a 50 win season, we haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years or more, and thats hella good. The team is making the same revenue as OKC. Now give us Durant and thos multiple 50+ win seasons and we are a lock for top 10…

    This is a huge market. Consider the fact that all of Canada has only 1 basketball team to cheer about, and its even bigger. Attendance argument is irrelevant. Look up Sacramento seat prices and compare with MLSE raptors seat prices. A market involves exposure (live, tv, internet, uniform sales etc…).

    Toronto is currently a medium-sized market. Considering the fact that the product sold has been absolutely horrible for at least 15 of the 20 years, and mediocre for the other 5 years with no conference final appearance, no 50 win season, and nothing special other than vince carters jaw dropping athleticism. A medium sized market is terrific… If we had a franchise as well run as the San Antonio Spurs for the last 20 years (numerous championships, a smart gm and mngmt team, a smart coaching staff, and 50 wins for 15 seasons straight), if the product was that good, Toronto’s basketball market would be amongst the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls… But if you’re selling a bag of shit, and the market is still providing 140 million revenue, dont question the market!!!

  • David Niddam-Dent

    One thing that is important is that Toronto is a mid size BASKETBALL market. Toronto is bigger than every other city in the NBA besides NY and LA, it’s just we are all focused on the Leafs during basketball season – the price argument is valid, but consider that MLSE owns the leafs, raptors, TFC, and that means that they all have similarly scaled ticket prices (Rogers, a partner in MLSE also owns the Blue Jays). The fact that Toronto has been so bad for 18 years (we did have one good season in 2006-07 as division champs which we may repeat this year) certainly doesn’t help.

    Still, Dwayne Casey has our team playing great basketball, were young, we have the arguably second best 2guard in the game (demar) a PG who has played like an allstar, some great big men, and one of the deeper benches in the NBA.

    Go Raptors

  • David Niddam-Dent

    Look, if you lived in Toronto (which you might but it certainly doesn’t sound like it) you would know that the city is focused on the Leafs, not the Raptors. Sure in a city of 5 million people (including suburbs) you’re gonna get 18000 people out to a basketball game, but this is a hockey town man, and with the Leafs doing something the past two seasons it has unfortunately overshadowed the Raps good play. Canada has 1 basketball team to care about? I can tell you that the only people who remotely care live in Toronto. Everyone else started bandwagoning a while ago. They tried the (Canadas Team crap a while ago

  • David Niddam-Dent

    and it didnt work (the blue jays will soon learn the same lesson). Most of the revenue is also based on the insane ticket prices and the volume of people, not necessarily because they’re really popular. Remember, you’re dealing with the city who elected Rob Ford (i still shake my head) here. They will probably buy the bag of shit to some degree, even if it is a high priced bag of shit, because there are 18,000 people out of 5 million who want to see a Raptors game.

    sorry about the long responses.