Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has been one of the league’s preeminent scorers since joining the league in 2009, but it appears he has finally embraced the modern NBA — and that should terrify opponents.
Much like Kobe Bryant when he dominated the NBA, DeRozan generated most of his shots from midrange, a shot that is among the more inefficient attempts the league has to offer. Players score on average 0.8 points per midrange attempt. Threes, by comparison, are worth 1.1 points per shot, the third-most-efficient attempt after a trip to the free throw line (1.5) and shots from the restricted area (1.2).
This season, DeRozan is taking a career-high 17 percent of his shots from behind the arc — 11 percent of those above the break — and less than 40 percent from midrange. Looked at another way: He has made 114 three-point attempts in 36 games, nearly equaling his total from last year (124).
In his past eight games, he has shot 25 for 38 from behind the arc (65.8 percent) with back-to-back games of at least five made three-pointers, installing him as the first player to make at least half of his three-point field-goal attempts and all of his free-throw attempts with at least eight attempts in each category in consecutive games since the NBA instituted the three-point shot in 1979-80.
Plus, he’s shooting better from midrange — 47 percent vs. 41 percent in 2016-17 — because he’s more selective with those shots, boosting his overall true shooting percentage from 53 percent during his first eight seasons in the NBA to 59 percent in 2017-18, a remarkable achievement.
“I don’t think nothing of it,” DeRozan told reporters Wednesday night after the game.
Oh, well, trust me: It’s remarkable, and it has made him a more valuable part of the offense. Instead of taking inefficient midrange jumpers, he is passing the ball to teammates more often, resulting in a career high in assist percentage (24 percent) and more points per 100 possessions created off assists.
Improvements such as those are making a big difference in the Raptors’ offensive efficiency. The team is scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions, fourth-most in the NBA and the highest since DeRozan’s rookie season of 2009-10. That rises even higher (112.9) if we look at solely those possessions that involve DeRozan on the court compared to when he is on the bench (103.7).
It’s also good enough to allow the Raptors to give the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics a run as the best team in the East. According to FiveThirtyEight’s 2017-18 NBA predictions, the Raptors have a 30 percent chance of making the NBA Finals, and a 10 percent chance of winning the first championship in franchise history. Only the Cavs and Golden State Warriors have better odds.
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