DeMar DeRozan is one of the most polarizing players in Toronto Raptors history. Some people love him, some hate him, and most oscillate between both several times per year.
He's a capable scorer, but his shot selection can be maddening. He's an able defender, but he doesn't always put up maximum effort on that end. He's one of the more gifted athletes in the league, but he sometimes shies away from making use of those gifts.
But he scores over 20 points per game and has been an NBA All-Star for two of the last three seasons. He has been the reason the Raptors have lost some games, sure, but he is also a big part of many of their best moments from these last few years.
Most importantly, he and teammate Kyle Lowry form one of the best and most renowned backcourts in the Association and they have combined to make this team suddenly very relevant, coming off a franchise best 56-win season and an Eastern Conference Finals run.
DeRozan is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and in the year of a skyrocketing salary cap, is expected to command a max contract on the open market. Whether that money comes in Canadian dollars or not remains to be seen, although GM Masai Ujiri has openly made re-signing DeRozan a top priority for this summer.
Looking back at his now finished contract year, should the Raptors pony up to retain their two-time All-Star and franchise's second all-time leading scorer, or let him walk?
DeRozan had a career year in 2015-16, averaging 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.3 blocks per game. His shooting split of 44.6% from the field, a career best 33.8% from three-point range, and 85.0% from the free throw line on 8.4 attempts was one of the more efficient he's ever put up.
As a result of that increased efficiency, DeRozan registered career highs in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 21.5, and total Win Shares (WS) with 9.9.
His .474 Free Throw Attempt Rate (free throws per field goal attempt) was also a career mark and one of the best in the league. He also led the entire NBA in points per game on drives (8.7), while shooting a commendable 50.6% on 11.6 drive attempts per contest.
While there was definitely an inside presence to his game suggested by a propensity for driving and getting to the line, DeRozan also ranked sixth in the league in mid-range field goal attempts per contest with 7.1, while only shooting 38.0% from that distance.
In a deep, 20-game playoff run, he averaged 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game, while shooting a much less commendable 39.4% from the field, 15.4% from long range, and 81.3% from the charity stripe.
DeRozan's regular season numbers may have earned him a max contract, but his inefficient playoff run may have cost him a few bucks in negotiations this offseason. He has a reputation for settling for contested jumpers far too much, but his being among the league leaders in both drives and free throw attempts this past season somehow counteracts that. It's that paradoxical part of his game that makes him such an enigma in today's pace and space NBA.
Either way, it was an interesting year statistically for one of the league's most scrutinized scorers.
March 12th vs. Miami Heat
In the 64th game of the regular season, the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 112-104 in overtime thriller at the Air Canada Centre.
DeRozan put up his best all-around stat lines of the year, scoring a season-high 38 points on 13-for-26 shooting from the field and 12-for-15 from the free throw line, while tossing in 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block.
That performance drew this quote out of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about DeRozan:
He puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you every single possession to keep him out of the paint and to do it without fouling. He is crafty, he is clever, he's aggressive, he's all of it and then when he gets those buckets near the basket then he starts knocking down the pull-up and it becomes very tough ... They also do it in ways sometimes where you can't get to him with a second defender.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey also commended DeRozan's defensive effort after that contest, saying, "That was one of the best defensive performances he's had. Even though Joe (Johnson) scored 28. I thought he worked for every bit of them."
Roll the tape:
May 9th @ Miami Heat (Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals)
DeRozan's worst game of the year also came against the Miami Heat and in a contest that also went into overtime. Unfortunately, this time around, the stakes were much higher. The Raptors lost Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Heat 94-87, knotting the series at 2-2, with a large part of the blame falling on DeMar's shoulders.
During a playoff run that was filled with its share of DeRozan duds, this one took the cake. In over 33 minutes, he scored only 9 points on 4-for-17 shooting, while going a measly 1-for-4 from the free throw line. He contributed three rebounds, while failing to register an assist, steal, or block. He added three turnovers and two personal fouls and was a game-low -11.
He forced just about every shot he took, as 14 of his 17 attempts were contested (and he only hit four of them). He was deservedly benched for most of the fourth quarter until Kyle Lowry fouled out Dwane Casey had no choice but to re-insert DeRozan.
Oh well, at least this game gave us this hilarious play as a souvenir:
Strengths & Weaknesses
+ Scores in bunches
+ Drives and gets to the line a ton
+ Underrated playmaker
+ Athletic and a force above the rim
+ Able to guard another team's star wing adequately in spurts
- Falls in love with the mid-range a little too often
- Forces contested shots and sometimes shoots his team out of close games
- Sometimes gambles a bit too much on defense or takes plays off on that end
- Has never developed a fully reliable three-point shot
Role Next Season
This obviously all comes down to whether or not DeRozan re-signs with the Raptors.
If he remains in Toronto, his role will likely remain exactly the same. He will continue to form one of the NBA's best backcourt duos with Kyle Lowry, while being the team's go-to scorer (unless they can miraculously land some help via trade or free agency). If he remains in a Raptors uniform, there's plenty of reason to believe that he'll have a shot at making his third All-Star team.
If he leaves and signs somewhere else? The rollercoaster experience that was DeRozan's tenure as a Toronto Raptor will end and the team will have to find his 20-plus points per game elsewhere.
A GIF To Sum It All Up