Photo via AP Images
Widely regarded as one of the top-two shooting guards in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors enigma, DeMar DeRozan, experienced a breakout season this year as he increased his scoring average from 23.5 PPG to 27.3 PPG.
DeRozan has captured the hearts of older NBA fans everywhere as they revel in the nostalgic inefficiency of his mid-range game. During the course of any given Raptors game, fans around the world can experience DeRozan’s newly controversial style of play.
The smooth 6’7 wing, receiving the ball at the inviolable arc, proceeding to bastardize Daryl Morey’s sacred ideology as he employs a series of deliberate and calculated through-the-legs and half spin moves while we await the inevitable: an off-balance mid-range jump shot.
As basketball traditionalists decry the popularization of the Three-Pointer in the modern NBA, “The Lone-Mid-Ranger” has come to their aid to remind everyone that the mid-range is still an effective source of offense.
But is it?
Before advanced stats and efficiency-laden rhetoric pervaded efficiency NBA analysis, there was a time, as recently as the early 2000’s, when a plethora of teams relied on wing players who lacked comfortable range out to the 3-point line.
Of course, this is no longer the case as most of the best wings in the NBA today boast range out to three, and it feels as though every role-playing wing has garnered the highly coveted reputation of a “three and D player.” Derozan breaks this mold, as he finds the majority of his offense from isolations and Iverson cuts that lead to mid-range jumpers.
Here is a look at DeRozan’s shooting percentages and shot distribution this year:
DeMar DeRozan’s Shooting Percentages During The 2016-2017 Season: 46.7 FG%, 26.9 3FG%, 84.2 FT%
DeMar DeRozan’s Shot Distribution during the 2016-2017 Season: 15.8% of DeRozan’s shots were from 0-3 feet where he shot 67%, 21.6% of his shots were from 3-10 feet where he shot 48%, 23.6% of his shots were from 10-16 feet where he shot 49%, 30.9% of his shots were from 16 feet-3 point line where he shot 38.5% and finally, 8% of his shots were from behind the 3-point-line where he shot 26.9%.
These statistics are significant because they illuminate Derozan’s truly unique shot chart. The NBA has branded DeRozan as a high-flying slasher, but he takes a smaller percentage of his shots from 0-3 feet than sharpshooters like Stephen Curry, Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum. What’s more, is that he attempted approximately 7% fewer shots from 0-3 feet than he did in 2016 which is a troubling trend.
If we compare DeRozan’s shooting tendencies to his elite wing contemporaries, the results are startling. For the sake of argument, the elite wings in the NBA are: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Klay Thompson.
Of these stand-outs, the only ones who take a smaller percentage of shots from 0-3 feet are Paul George and Klay Thompson. It is worth noting however, that before PG13’s injury with USA basketball, he took a larger percentage of his shots around the hoop than DeRozan. On the other hand, Klay Thompson is a three-point shooter who only takes 0.2% less shots from that distance, while also 47% of his shots from three and making them at an elite volume and percentage.
When compared to his peers who excel at getting to the rim, DeRozan’s measly 15.8% of his shots from 0-3 feet is overshadowed by LeBron James’ 43%, Jimmy Butler’s 28% and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s nearly 50%.
DeRozan’s dearth of escapades to the rim, coupled with his lack of three-point shooting, make it incredibly hard for DeRozan to be a truly efficient NBA star. Of the 24 NBA All-Stars this year, DeRozan was fourth worst in True Shooting Percentage as he was only ahead of Paul Millsap, John Wall and Carmelo Anthony (Millsap having made the team for his defensive ability and Anthony being an injury replacement).
During the past seven NBA seasons, there have only been three NBA All-Stars with a negative BPM (Box Plus Minus) for their careers: Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and DeMar DeRozan.
Since 1994, there have only been two players with negative BPM’s that started in an NBA All-Star Game: B.J Armstrong and DeMar DeRozan.
While these aforementioned players were solid in their own right, they did not come close to the supposed greatness of DeMar DeRozan. Don’t get me wrong, DeRozan is a very talented player and is spectacular at what he specializes in. Unfortunately for Demar, his specialty is better served as a useful bailout mechanism for when the shot clock is winding down, not as a primary source of offense.
So, how can DeRozan improve his game and become a more significant contributor? DeRozan possesses the physical tools and the ball-handling ability that should allow him to get to the rim more often than he currently manages to. He is too talented with the ball and too athletic to not attempt a higher percentage of shots from 0-3 feet.
Furthermore, Derozan has no excuse to not be a “plus” defender with his athleticism and 7’0 wingspan. Derozan must also improve his three-point percentage and take more than 1.7 three- pointers per game. In fact, if DeRozan were to replace all of his mid-range shots with three-point shots and then proceed to shoot 29% from the three, his efficiency would not change.
According to Hoopminer.com, this season DeRozan attempted more shots per game from 10-16 feet than the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks did during the 2012-2013 NBA season and this eye-opening trend has only continued during the subsequent years. This being said, I do not expect Derozan to change as he is one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA and has achieved enormous individual success with his current style of play.
However, as we saw in this year’s playoffs, DeRozan struggles playing off the ball and has a tough time creating for others, which is something he desperately needs to improve upon in order to ascend to the next level in the pantheon of the NBA’s best players.
Overall, DeRozan is far from a complete player, let alone a complete scorer, and has his work cut out for him should he want to enter the category of the truly elite NBA players.