The Toronto Raptors as we know them today are absolutely loaded with wing players. They will be entering the 2013-14 season with guys like DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Quentin Richardson and Steve Novak. That's six players without Quincy Acy probably seeing some playing time on the wing as well.
Let's assume that last year's rotation at the shooting guard position will not change, meaning DeRozan and Ross will see most if not all of the minutes there. The latter has just come off his rookie season, the new label of sophomore on him now, the former, trying to take his game to another level this season. Both athletic, both tall for the two-guard slot at 6'7", and taken with the number eight and number nine picks in the first round respectively.
Wouldn't it be interesting to compare both resumés after their rookie years?
We will take a look at a few different areas of their game, from basic averages to shot selection to their play per 48 minutes.
Let's start with some simple numbers.
Coming off a roller-coaster ride at the end of the season, the Raptors failed to make the postseason, finishing ninth with a 40-42 record. In 21.6 minutes-per-game, DeRozan averaged 8.6 points on 49.8 percent shooting that season, also grabbing 2.9 rebounds per game. No other statistic stands out for him: not assists, nor steals, blocks, three-point shooting, nothing. Ross played about four and half minutes less per game than DeRozan: 17 on the dot, scoring 6.4 points on only 40.7 percent shooting and grabbing 2.0 rebounds per game. Same story as DeRozan in that there's nothing special on his stat-line other than the aforementioned.
Let's focus on the differences now: DeRozan averaged 76.3 percent shooting from the free-throw line as a rookie. Ross didn't have the same success rate, hitting at a 71.4 percent clip from the line last season. Other than that and DeRozan's +9.1 percent advantage on Ross in field-goal percentage, the only difference is in their teams' records in their respectable rookie seasons. In 77 games played in 2009-10, DeRozan finished with a 36-41 record. In 73 games played, Ross finished with only 29 wins and 44 losses. Granted, personnel is quite a factor here. However, that 9.1 percent difference diminishes to a much smaller 2.4 percent difference (still in DeRozan's favor) when we look at effective field-goal percentage (eFG%). Read on to find out why.
Looking to their shot selection, here's where things get very interesting.
Starting off with DeRozan, he made 255 out of 512 shots. Of those 255, a whopping (for a guard) 69.8 percent came in the paint, 28.6 percent were from mid-range and 1.6 percent from three-point range. He made 57.7 percent of his attempts in the paint and 36.9 percent from mid-range. Unfortunately for him, he made a feeble 25 percent of his three-point attempts but only attempted 16, not harming his team much in the long run. He finished the season with an effective field-goal percentage of 50.2 percent.
Turning on Ross, he converted on only 186 of his 457 shots taken. Of those shots made, 41.4 percent were in the paint, 23.7 percent came from mid-range and 34.9 percent, an immense difference than DeRozan, came from beyond the arc. He converted on 58.2 percent of his attempts in the paint, extremely identical to the other guard. He also hit on 32.1 percent of his shots from mid-range and, in contrast to DeRozan, hit on 33.2 percent of his three-point attempts. His effective field-goal percentage of 47.8 percent is something that most people would let slip past them unnoticed, making him not much less of the offensive contributor DeRozan was in his rookie season. The reason why the difference in eFG percentage is 2.4 versus the 9.1 percent difference in field-goal percentage is largely due to Ross' three-point scoring. The fact that he was able to contribute three-point field goals so much in comparison to DeRozan his numbers up. Yes, DeRozan still has the upper hand here at an effective field-goal percentage of 50.2, but all of Ross' three-point field goals raises his significantly more. After all, three is worth more than two.
Looking at their shot charts individually, we notice a few things.
Firstly, Ross absolutely loves to shoot from the right side of the court. He attempted 199 shots from that side versus 108 from the left and 149 from the middle (including 104 at the rim). Unfortunately for him, his shot effectiveness from the right side of the floor proved to be below league average, converting on a mere 29.1 percent of those shots, including 24.6 percent of his 116 attempted three-point shots from that side.
DeRozan on the other hand, loves the rim. He attempted 283 of his 512 shots in the restricted area, converting on 60.1 percent of them, an effective rate, comparable to the league average that year. He was below average from mid-range, his success rate of 36.9 percent being 3.1 percent lower than the league average of 40 percent that season.
We arrive to comparing both players' play per 48 minutes of action. Of course, their field-goal percentage doesn't change, nor does their three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. As well, I will not bother comparing assist numbers, steals, blocks or turnovers, as those numbers were too feeble to begin with for the both of them.
DeRozan averages 19.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, averaging 4.3 free-throws per game. Ross posts 18.1 points and 5.6 rebounds and makes 2.5 three-point shots a game. However, he only shoots 1.2 free-throws per game. Last Tuesday, Braedon Clark wrote "For someone so athletic, Ross should be making a living at the free-throw line, but...lets his athleticism work against him by avoiding contact too much." DeRozan was not much better his rookie season, being a crazy athlete as well, but has taken steps to improve the number of free-throws he takes per game, 4.3 in 36.7 minutes of play last season, as well as hitting them at a success rate of 83.1 percent. He still has work to do, but has definitely shown improvement. It's up to Ross now to take after his teammate and work his way to the charity stripe and improve his percentage from the line to contribute further.
Unfortunately for the two of them, they finished with negative plus-minus ratings per game their rookie seasons. DeRozan averaged -3.0 per-game while Ross logged -0.9 per-game. The former took more shots and had a bigger role on the team his rookie season than Ross did last season, so this is definitely understandable.
The next step and what Raptors fans surely want is for both to capitalize on their athleticism. They're both extremely gifted and must learn to use their bodies to their advantage, drawing contact and not only earning freebies at the line, but making them when they get there. Also, being bigger than most two-guards, they have a gift of being able to be defensive stoppers at that position. They must now learn to move their feet well and read their opponent, something that will only come with practice and repetition.
For his sake more than ours, I sincerely hope Ross shows great signs of maturity and growth this season after an up and down rookie season and disappointing Summer League to kick off his sophomore year. DeRozan did it and is continuing to progress, now it's time for the Slam Dunk Champion to step up to the plate.