In honour of DeMar DeRozan's player of the week award, I thought I'd take a look at the great season he is having.
DeMar is posting career highs in several key categories.
- Career high in PER (20.2 vs 18.4 in his all-star year)
- 2nd highest TS% of his career and highest since his rookie season (53.7% vs 53.2% in his all-star year and 55.4% in his rookie year)
- Career high free throw rate (.501 FTA/FGA vs .448 in his all-star year)
- Career high assist rate (20.8% vs 18.9% his all-star year)
- 2nd highest usage of his career (28.1% vs 28.4% last year, just above the 28.0% in his all-star year)
- Career high WS/48 (.156 vs .141 his all-star year - no other year above .100)
- Career high offensive box-plus-minus (an adjusted plus-minus from basketball-reference that is similar to ESPN's RPM - +1.6 vs +1.4 his all-star year)
- 2nd highest defensive box-plus-minus (-0.8 vs -0.7 his all-star year)
Pretty impressive. But how is he doing it? There is one trend in particular that stands out - he's doing less of the stuff that drives Raptors fans crazy. Mostly, settling for long jumpers.
Here is a quick picture of DeRozan's shot selection, looking at only one number - the percentage of his FGA's that come in that dreaded "long two" region - from 16 feet out to the three point line.
Year | % of FGA's from 16ft-3pt
See an outlier? It is amazing how much he has brought down his long jumpers. And no, he hasn't turned those into three pointers as many Raptors fans had hoped - which is wise, considering his total lack of a three point shot despite all that work put into it. (He's shooting 24% from distance this year, 2nd lowest of his career). His 3 point attempt rate is the lowest it has been since his sophomore year, with only 8% of his shots coming outside the arc.
Instead, he's just getting closer to the basket. How much closer? Here's the same chart as above, but for his midrange jumpers - 10 feet out to 16 feet.
Year | % of FGA's from 10ft-16ft
Hmm. No significant increase there, even a few less than last year. So where are his attempts going?
Same chart, for attempts in the paint (but outside the restricted area) and also in the restricted area itself.
Year | % of FGA's in Paint | % of FGA's in Restricted Area
2009-10: 12%, 45%
2010-11: 17%, 30%
2011-12: 14%, 25%
2012-13: 15%, 20%
2013-14: 15%, 15%
2014-15: 15%, 19%
2015-16: 24%, 22%
He's getting into the paint at career high rates, he's getting to the rim at a rate not seen from him in close to a half a decade, and he's doing it while carrying a higher usage than he carried for his all-star season (and near the usage he carried last year). And he's been getting deeper into the paint than before, judging by his shooting percentage in the paint (but outside 3 feet) of 48% - far higher than the 40% he's carried the past few years.
Getting into the paint and to the rim has resulted in his career highs in free throws (he's averaging 8.3 FTAs per game to his all-star 8.0, but in two fewer minutes per game, and less FGAs) and in assists. (He is at his best passing out of a drive to the rim, either in a dump off to a big man or kicking out to the three point line).
And here is the crazy part: He's doing it as a shot creator. He's been assisted on fewer two-point baskets this year than in any year of his career - he is at an assisted-basket rate of 30%. That rate has been dropping steadily the last few years as his primary scoring role has been cemented on this team. From 63% in 2011-12, to 53%, to 47%, to 42%, to 30% this year.
And in general he has shown an increase in long jumpers settled for and less attempts near the rim as that shot creation load has increased. But this year he has bucked the trend and is scoring from more efficient areas on the floor. He's finally doing what a player with that primary scoring role should be doing - scoring as efficiently as possible, generating looks for his teammates, getting to the line, and yes, occasionally taking a tough shot - but only when your team needs you to.
Now, I'm not saying DeMar has been perfect this year - he still takes too many tough shots too early in the clock, he still plays pretty uninspiring defence - but he has not been the same player we've seen the past few years. Sure, it is a contract year. Sure, it has only been 25 games. But I think it is worth appreciating the difference we've seen in his game so far. And if it holds up for the entire year and into the playoffs (let's not hold our collective breaths just yet, but if it holds up), the conversation among Raptors fans might need to change from who the Raptors should replace DeRozan with, to who they should get to play beside him.
All numbers from Basketball-Reference.com.