Can Demar follow Dunleavy's path?
Can Demar follow Dunleavy’s path?

With a lot of the pre-season discussion in Raptor land focusing on DeMar DeRozan and how he may evolve in his fourth season, I was curious to see if I could find players with similar career paths. Basketball Reference’s similarity scores don’t really help us in this regard. While fun and interesting at the end of a player’s career, they don’t tell you much about how similar players progress. To wit, DeRozan’s highest similarity score is Raymond Felton, a point guard who has a dissimilar on-court game.

This isn’t a flaw with their scores, because this isn’t what they aim to measure – their similarity scores measure Win Shares ranked from a player’s best to worst season, regardless of style of play. Specifically, I was interested to see if DeRozan’s downward-trending true shooting percentage (TS%) could be looked at as a red herring or if it’s a big red flag about his potential development.

True Shooting Percentage
DeRozan’s TS% in his first three seasons has declined from 55.4% to 53.0% to 50.3%, thanks largely to his increased frequency of three-point shots and his declining two-point field goal accuracy. His free throws have trended upward, preventing an even greater decline. TS% is a shooting percentage that takes three-point shooting and free throws into account. Basically, since regular field goal percentage (FG%) measures two different types of shots in the same way and ignores another, TS% is a more representative measure of the value of one’s shooting efficiency. Thus, while DeMar is a poor three-point shooter, his ability to get to the free throw line (approximately five times per game, just outside the top-10 in the NBA last year) brings his TS% back up.

Method I
To try and find players with a similar career trend in TS%, I ran a Basketball Reference Play Index query for players in the three-point era in their first five years, who were marked as guard, guard-forward, or forward-guard, and qualified for the FG% title (300 field goals made, which DeRozan technically narrowly missed, but bear with me). When I limited the range to single seasons where a player meeting these criteria had a TS% between 49.5% and 60%, I got 800 results.

Results I
The first thing I did was try to see if any player had three individual seasons in these ranges, regardless of the order. It turns out there were only three such players – Kirk Hinrich, Randy Wittman, and Michael Dickerson. Dickerson was the only one who had the same declining pattern as DeRozan, dropping each season from age 23 to 25 (DeRozan dropped from age 20 to 22). Dickerson isn’t a great comparison for us, because after his first three years he was hampered by hamstring and groin issues, rarely got on the floor, and retired prematurely. Hinrich is a point guard with a dissimilar game (far fewer free throws, strong three-point shooting) and has wildly fluctuated in terms of TS% over his career, while Wittman didn’t get to the line or shoot threes (though for the record, after seeing another TS% decline in his sixth season, he went from being a regular to a sparsely used bench player for the rest of his career).

Method II
Since we didn’t really get great comps using this methodology, I thought I’d try to alter it. This time, I set a minimum free throw attempts per game of 2 and a maximum three-point attempts per game of 4 and changed the qualification from FG% leader to minutes per game leader, to allow for some more rookies (like DeMar, who played 70 games and thus qualified) in the sample. This time we had a new sample of 717 players.

Results II
Here, I looked for players who had seasons with a TS% of 54.4-56.4, 52.0-54.0 and 49.5-51.3, all within their first five seasons, regardless of the order they occurred in. This gave me 16 results, so we have a little more to work with this time around, although once again DeMar is by far the youngest player in the “high TS%” group (Alvin Robertson and Mike Dunleavy are next closest at 23 to DeMar’s 20). Here we see that Mike Dunleavy is the only other qualified player in the three-point era to experience declining TS% rates in a relatively close range to DeRozan within his first five seasons. So what does this mean for DeMar? While this looks somewhat favourable given that Dunleavy has had some pretty successful seasons, it’s still not a great comparison considering that Dunleavy, while at his peak he got to the line a decent amount, is a relatively dissimilar player to DeRozan, trading free throws for threes.

Reflection
So, did I do all of this analysis basically to say that DeRozan doesn’t have any good player comparables? Maybe, and that might sound like a waste of time, but I don’t think so. The fact that there are almost no other instances of a player with a roughly similar profile to DeRozan starting their career off with this kind of a TS% trend is a worthwhile finding on its own. On one hand, you can look at this and claim that he’s doomed, since no other player has experienced such a stark decline to start their career. But you could also say that, since there is no precedent, you could just as easily expect him to rebound or improve as flame out entirely. If we make some pretty reasonable, if optimistic, assumptions, we see how DeRozan’s TS% can improve rather quickly.

TS% Experiment
If we hold DeRozan’s 3PA/game at 1.5 and increase his effectiveness from 26.1% to 28.5%, increase his FTA/game from 5.3 to 5.7 and hold his FT% at 81%, and decrease his total FGA/game from 14.3 to 14, increasing his 2FG% from 44% to 45%, his TS% would improve from 50.3% to 51.8%. These aren’t extreme increases by any means, more or less rounding errors (his points per game would only increase from 16.7 to 17.1). Of course, a 51.8% TS% still isn’t strong (it’s about what Vince Carter did last year), but my point is that he only has to make pretty small improvements to buck his current trend.

Shot Distribution
Just to be thorough and see if I was missing anything, I also took my data set and filtered it for seasons where players had between 4 and 7 FTA/game and between 1 and 2 3PA/game within their first five seasons, and it gave me 46 such seasons. This doesn’t really mean anything either, just that DeRozan’s free-throw and three-point frequencies are relatively uncommon. The average TS% for the sample was 54%, and surprisingly the sample had a three-point percentage average of just 28.1%. Free-throw shooting was also at 78.5%, so basically given his profile, 2FG% is the only thing holding DeMar back from having an adequate TS% given his profile. Looking at his Advanced Stats from NBA.com, we see that DeMar shot 57% at the rim, 45% in the lane, 36% from mid-range, 40% from the corner-three, and 22% from above the three-point line. For comparison, have a look at Rodney Stuckey and Tyreke Evans, who were also a part of this last sample group I created. Compared to these two players who show similar profiles in terms of threes and free throws, DeRozan shoots a disproportionate amount of mid-range shots. So the onus is on DeRozan to continue to improve his ability to get to the line by attacking more and more, trading mid-range shots for attempts closer to the basket. Whether or not he’ll be afforded this opportunity sharing the court with Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani is yet to be seen, but the simplest way for DeRozan to make sure he continues to get touches is to make the most of them. And the best way to do that is to get to the rim, where shots fall with a greater frequency and free throws are more likely to follow, both of which should keep DeRozan from becoming a TS% cautionary tale.

  • mobchester

    Derozan is a bootleg and a more athletic version of D-wade he doesn’t have the killer instinct like wade but he does poses everything D-wade has . He will make the all-star team this if he keeps playing like this for 82games :)

    • Phat AlberG

      Please don’t compare Derozan too D Wade they’re not even same player.  Derozan game is like Iggy from the nuggets can’t shoot or dribble but can slash his way to the basket, but I will admit Iggy is way better defensive player than Derozan.  So Derozan needs to work on both ends and get better handles (and that will never happen) to be compare 2 time champ D Wade.  But I do like the aggression he is showing so far but he is no way a lead dawg on this team, he’s a piece of the puzzle and that’s it.

      • Nilanka15

        Iggy is also a far better facilitator/passer than DeRozan.

        • What the

          …and iggie lets the offence flow like Gary Forbes.lo

          • Gman

            And Iggy is an All Star and a great defensive player.

    • 2damkule

      haha, oh man, that is some great sarcasm…

      that is sarcasm, right?

      what?  no? huh…well…

      taking the lead in ‘most outlandish/ridiculous/hyperbolic comment of the year’ – MOBCHESTER!  and it’s a sizeable lead, too!

      • mobchester

        I said a bootleg version of him remember d-wade can’t shoot the 3 that much , so he relies on his athletic ability to get his points, plus he lives at the free throw line. Demar might not have the killer instincts like the 2006 finals MVP but he definitley have the athletic body plus injury free to be the next D-wade and the skills set just have to put it togther . Just like how some ppl on this website thinks bargani will be like drik lmaooooo :) :) ::) ROFTL

        • 2damkule

          i’m not sure you know what ‘bootleg’ means.  the actual term doesn’t imply that the copy is inferior, just that it’s been reproduced without authorization.

          IMO, the ‘similarities’ between wade & DD begin & end with them both being poor 3-pt shooters…though realistically speaking, if the game was on the line and you saw wade taking a 3, you’d be worried if you’re the opposition, and if you saw demar taking one, you’d be relieved.

        • Matt52

           Wade can create, pass, is one of the best shot blocking guards to have ever played, plays solid D, and rebounds pretty good for a SG. 

          With all due respect, I think the comparison starts and ends at the 3 pt shooting.

          • EmarErozan

            Wade also rebounds

      • What the

        what? ever heard AB13=Dirk so whats wrong with DeMar=Wade which one has a better chance ot becoming an allstar if they keep on doing what they are doing

        • 2damkule

          well, based on the empirical evidence presented above, i’m going to guess that if demar ‘keeps doing what he’s doing’ (i.e. having his TS% drop year over year), he’s going to have a difficult time sticking in the L, let alone being considered an AS.

  • c_bcm

    The best description of DD’s game that I have ever heard is: that he’s a much better athlete than basketball player. 

    I’m sure that this will remain true for the rest of his career. I suspect that he will have a shorter career (done by 31) if he can’t develop some skills that will make him a valuable asset as he declines athletically.

    • Arsenalist

      I’ve always had reservations about his athleticism, because he doesn’t put it t good use.  Actually, I’m not even sure how athleticism is defined.  Absorbing or avoiding contact to finish? Finishing in traffic against help defenders? Explosive first step? Reach on defense? Passing-lane activity? Lateral quicknesss on defense? Help defense when you “come out of nowhere”? Shot blocking in one-on-one situations?  

      These are things that I usually equate with athleticism, and DeRozan doesn’t do any of them well.  He gets to dunk nicely in the open court when nobody’s around him, or people are in camera-view but not really challenging him.  To me, that’s nothing special.

      If he’s going to be a good player in the league, it’ll be because he’ll have a good mid-range game and will move without the ball.

      • Destro

        You dont define it you just see and observe it….athleticism is speed,jumping ability and co-ordination…theres no formula to chart it which is prolly why you internet dweebs dont understand it…

        • Nilanka15

          Speed?  Are we talking about the same DeRozan?

          But he can jump which makes him awesome!!!

          • 2damkule

            …as long as said jump is off one leg, and there’s no one around.

            • Matt52

               Exactly.

              That dunk vs Detroit is giving me a glimmer of hope for this upcoming season.

          • Destro

            Who said derozan other than you ?
            I said athleticism…

            Youd do best to leave the point alone you still a year later have no idea what athleticism is…

        • Bendit

          “internet dweebs”??? Hahahaha

      • tmk

        Exactly. Jamario Moon? He was an athlete more than a player. But like you said, I don’t see Derozan like that. Maybe he just lacks the IQ, instincts, or whatever, but other than a few and-ones and dunks in transition, I’ve never thought, “Wow, that was an athletic move.”

        He’s not Calderon athletic, but at the same time he’s also not part of the top-tier of athletic NBA players. That’s a problem because I feel that his game is built around a very similar style as the Westbrooks, and Wades (though they still can shoot) of the NBA. But if you don’t have their insane athleticsm you just can’t be as dominant. Unless you’re happy with a best-case Maggette, he needs that jumpshot or high IQ/”craftiness” (like Ginobli and Pierce) to ever become more then just a 20ppg scorer on a bad team.

        • 2damkule

          except that moon was a far better defender & rebounder…and, as much as his 3pt shot (and inevitible shit-eating grin that followed) was cringe-inducing, he still hit it at a higher rate than did/does derozan.  let’s not rewrite history…moon was an idiot who never took seriously what he needed to do to remain a viable NBA player, and while i certainly think DD has more innate basketball sense & ability, i wouldn’t dismiss the comparison outright.  both are flawed players who got by/are getting by on being an athlete.

        • c_bcm

          Nobody said DD is the BEST athlete in the league. Just that his athletic tools do him more favors on the court than his basketball skills or instinct. In that case, he is much more of an athlete than a basketball player.

        • Phat AlberG

          You can not compare Derozan to Westbrook or D Wade.  Basically you guys are saying Derozan is going to be as good as Wade or Westbrook.  Now that is funny! Derozan has 0 handles yes he has improve his handle since a rookie but as starting 2 guard it’s below average at best with the pill.  

      • c_bcm

        I dunno about your definition of athleticism. I think you are interpreting athleticism based on how he plays the game, which requires basketball instincts. Those instincts are seriously lacking with DD which is why his execution of the things you are talking about sucks. I have no doubt that he can do those things, he just doesn’t know how to do them well enough to be effective and efficient on the floor. 

        You put that guy in a room with a bunch of other similarly proportioned athletes and run them through a bunch of drills, i’m sure DD would win the eye test 8 out of 10 times.

        On the basketball court, I dunno. 

        • Destro

          Well said….Hes a mediocre skilled basketball player but his athleticism is absolutely top 10 in the league,those that know what athleticism is would co sign that….

          • p00ka

            Off the top of my head:
            Rose
            Westbrook
            LBJ
            Durant
            Irving
            Wall
            Griffin
            Rondo
            Wade
            Gay
            Ellis
            Tyreke evans
            Paul George
            Josh Smith
            Dwight
            Iggy
            CP3
            G Wallace
            Parker

            Which 10 of them would you and your fellow athleticism geniuses dump to get DD into the “absolutely top 10 in the league”?

            • Destro

              Horrible reply…

              DD is greater athlete than 6-7 of em

              lol @ Tyreke Evans and Tony Parker on that list…yup you trolling….

              • p00ka

                C’mon big mouth. Name 10 that you need to get him in “Top 10″, with some semblance of reasoning toward your “athleticism” expertise that you’re mouthing off about. 

          • 2damkule

            are you describing DD, or JAMARIO MOON?

  • Destro

    These articles are so fckn horrible….using graphs and and formulas to talk basketball…smh 

    • 2damkule

      hmm…i think you’ve mispelled your moniker.

      Destroll

      there, fixed.

    • 2damkule

      the funny part is, the article is trying soooooo hard to paint a positive picture for derozan, and yet, you – someone who flips out if people criticize him – are now criticizing the article for…wait, i’m not exactly sure why you’re criticizing it. 

      oh wait, i remember.  it’s because you’re a gigantic fucking troll, who’s main objective is to dissent.

      • Destro

        Who cares what its doing…its using graphs to make an argument…you dudes are losers who need fags like Hollinger to tell you how to evaluate players using flawed formulas and sample size stats… 

      • Destro

        Yes im quite sure you have no idea why im criticizing the article and all articles who use formulas and graphs strictly to argue basketball points…

        faggots in here using graphs to argue Calderon is the best PG in the league *shrug*

        I dont ride for DeMar…i could careless about most of the personnel on this team,i ride on posters in here who are intellectually dishonest about the way they critique the team which is usually based in agenda driven non sense….IE bargnani stans critiquing other players for things they wont rail on AB doing…..

        • 2damkule

          so the other day, when you were throwing your little hissy fit at those criticizing DD’s game vs RM (a game you saw all of 5 minutes of) and were using the box score to ‘prove’ that he had a good game…what was that?  i mean, i’m sure you’ve got an incredibly sage rebuttal, but to me, you were engaging in the same type of behaviour that today you’re railing against.

          oh, and if you’re too intellectually fragile to engage in an adult discussion without using terms favoured by the lowest of the low among society’s mouth breathers, then you should probably just head over to bleacher report or some other shithole corner of the internet, and have it with all the other 14 yr olds who feel they’re making some statement using those terms.

          i know, i know…i’m ‘hiding’ on the internet, and there’s no way i’d dare utter these words to your face, yada blah yada blah.  

          • Destro

            No i said based on 6-13 he wasnt bricking shots like was said…at least tell the lie correctly…

  • Malefax

     My theory is that DeMar’s shooting percentages last year were a fluke in the downward direction, further negatively affected by no training camp. I think he’s going to have a tS% at least 3% higher this year.

  • Marz

    I believe DeRozan’s high first year TS% was a result of his role – it was the final year of the Bosh era and his offensive role was very defined as shooting at the elbow and cuts to the basket. He was afforded a lot more space as the defense focused more on the other 4 players on the floor instead of the rookie shooting guard.

    His TS% was inflated and had nowhere to go but down once he started receiving more touches and there was less talent on the floor.

    • 2damkule

      i dunno…you’d sorta expect him to improve in certain areas year over year, which would offset the downswing in efficiency one would expect with him carrying a heavier workload.  i don’t think anyone was surprised his TS% dropped from year 1 to year 2…but to see it drop further in year 3, which is usually the year guys really define who they are, was troubling. 

      • p00ka

        Except that I take any individual stats, bad or good last year, with a grain of salt. With no chance to work with coaches in the summer, virtually no training camp, but mostly the insanely compressed schedule, even a lot of star players stats dropped. Now, this year there are no excuses and it’s time for him to show improvement in virtually every aspect of his game, or become a bit player warming the bench for more minutes than not.

        • What the

          “now this year there is nooo excuse” thats what  i have been saying about AB13 after 6 long years going in to season 7

          • p00ka

            Thank you for sharing the illuminating news, but the discussion is about Demar. It’s quite evident your mind is a little scattered, but surely you can find a few hints in here to get the idea. Adderall can help you with that problem.

            • hater

              destro has wiped out the world supply of adderall

              • Destro

                hows my ass taste…

                • 2damkule

                  so many possibilities….remain civilized…

  • misrabill

    you guys are funny i cant type but i hope to add in i love reading this blog cause some don’t have a clue

  • hateslosing

    The guy just needs to get into the paint more. He worked hard on his mid range game last year and it improved, but he did it at the expense of his driving game and post game. If he starts mixing it up more he’ll do better. He also needs to pass more instead of taking long two’s, though that can be said about several Raptor players.  
    Great article Blake, does Raptors Republic have two stats guys now?

  • Lorenzo

    “With a lot of the pre-season discussion in Raptor land focusing on DeMar DeRozan and how he may evolve in his fourth season,”

    That’s putting it lightly..

    Do you guys even see what goes on down here lol? Or are you just marinating in the entertainment..

    • FAQ

      LOL… tribal honking fans do “marinate in the entertainment” because all they can see is the ball flying through the air towards the basket… while munching and drinking.  That’s all they watch… the big orange ball..!!!

      • p00ka

        You tried other phrases, failed to get enough attention, so back to the “tribal honking fans” with a newly learned brilliant “big orange ball” add-on. Not a big enough boy yet to get attention without insulting remarks to anonymous fans, eh? Grow some real balls and take on what individual posters actually say, instead of just echoing yourself with the same lines over and over. I know, you’re desperate for attention and don’t really have anything else to get it. Hug your teddy bear, she still loves you.

  • Destro

    bargnani is pure trash defensively…how you in the league 7 years and still dont know how to trap…smh its embarrasing to watch…

    • cesco

       He does a good job of trapping at the perimeter , I don’t think you know much about b-ball . He had a steal by trapping a guard , took off with DD , pass the ball to DD and sure enough DD attempted to score instead of passing the ball back to AB who was under the basket .

    • eMar eRozan

      Hey Destro, are you on the eMar eRozan payroll?

    • FAQ

      Why bother playing defense on a terminal team… that’s hard work for nothing.

      Besides, Bargs shooting the 3-ball is entertaining for the tribal honking fans who only watch the big orange ball.  When the Raps try to play defense, fans are busy eating and drinking…. and only stop to look at offense.

      Haven’t you figured that out yet??!!!

  • Doug

    DeRozan needs to develope a consistent shooting stroke pure and simple. I think this coaching staff can make him a solid defender. Needs a better plan of what he’s trying to do as well. Much like Bargnani he’s not the best an improvising. If he can knock down a few more 3’s and clean up some of shot choices he’lll be a top 10 shooting guard. His PER will be north of 16 this season.

  • FAQ

    BC hasn’t offered DD an extension yet, so that tells you a lot.

    DD has been given a lot of playing time, and he still has glaring shortcomings.  Surely his shortcomings have been explained to him, and what he must do in the off-season to rectify his weaknesses.  What was he doing besides being a stud?

    I’m thinking that BC may use DD as trade bait and letting the market decide what he’s worth and the demand, if any.  Is he worth $4.5M for another year’s experiment, or is TRoss a better investment at $2.6M ??

    DD has not yet developed into an impact player and perhaps he’s plateaued physically and mentally.  I doubt he’s NBA starter quality, except for the weakest teams.

    He’s getting to the basket, but he’s still a weak finisher.. with underhand layups!!

    • http://falseprophetsandgods.blogspot.com/ GN. FLAVIVS PHILOVERITAS

      That’s what I get from watching him but it’s confirmed by the stats he needs finish at the bucket. I mean he can get to the rim but blows the lay-up and luckily gets bailed out by a phantom foul cause he enjoys reputation with the refs for getting to the line. That doesn’t always hold out. He is your standard two guard but if not physically undersized he plays smaller than his is. He needs to up his shooting percentages across the board if he is going to get a contract offer for his prime years. That being said he is scoring the ball this preseason every game so it’s not like he can’t do anything for this team he fills out the scoreboard if not always efficiently, at least effectively.

      • FAQ

        DD doesn’t have the leg strength to elevate when driving to the basket.  He can dunk, but only on a wide open layup, a lob dunk or a standing dunk.

         After expending his energy fighting to get to the rim, he can’t elevate and is left with a weak jump shot or underhanded heave, which draws fouls.

        A possible solution is punishing plyometrics, but even then…..

  • joeeoj

    I thunk he is a bit like Desmond Mason. Should be a better rebounder , off the dribble game and defensive game but never will.