Following a season in which DeMar DeRozan’s scoring production more than doubled and his PER improved significantly, Toronto Raptors fans had every reason to be excited for the shooting guard’s third year. But so far, DeRozan has struggled to build on last season’s gains. DeRozan’s scoring is down and his PER is at an all-time low, but the most alarming trend has been DeRozan’s sudden affinity for his jump shot, never the strongest part of his game.
As James Herbert points out on Raptors Republic, DeRozan’s perimeter shooting has taken a leap forward, as he’s connecting on a career-best 32% from beyond the arc on nearly four times as many attempts per game as he launched last season. The uptick in deep shooting is heartening, but when we take a holistic look at his jumpshooting, it’s clear that DeRozan is still more slasher than shooter.
According to Synergy Sports, DeRozan attempted jumpers on 59% of his possessions last season, shooting a marginal 39% overall. This year he’s settling for jump shots 63% of the time while shooting just 26%, ranking in the bottom 10% of the entire league. In fact, of the 50 players who have taken at least 100 jumpers to this point in the season, DeRozan is dead lead in scoring efficiency at just over .6 points per possession.
It’s a double edge sword of sorts for DeRozan, a gifted athlete who is at his best attacking the rim, but one who needs to expand his arsenal in order to continue succeeding as a player. Beckley Mason touched upon this topic in regards to Blake Griffin, who is suddenly shooting more long twos to better compliment his dunk-or-bust running mate DeAndre Jordan. In order to become a more complete, multi-dimensional player, DeRozan unquestionably needs to develop a consistent perimeter shot, but in the short term it is costing him and his team.
A big part of DeRozan’s success in the past was his ability to capitalize on defenders closing out too hard by blowing past them. At no time was this more noticeable than when Toronto would run him off screens, a play-type for which he ranked in the top one-third in the NBA in scoring efficiency. This season, he ranks in just the 17th percentile in this play-type for two reasons: he is settling for more jumpers and defenses are playing him to do so.
One suspects that opposing defenses are playing DeRozan for the drive after his success last season. DeRozan likely predicted this response, and is attempting to broaden his game to counteract defenders who now slip under screens rather than flying out at him and thereby opening up driving opportunities. But here’s the thing: as DeRozan shoots more, and more poorly, he hardly convinces defenses to adjust their thinking. More than ever, it pays for DeRozan’s defenders to sit back and dare him to shoot.
There’s little question that DeRozan adding a more polished and consistent perimeter game will result in a more dangerous player, but in the present, it’s throwing off his natural rhythm as a scorer and his game is showing the ill effects.
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