This may come as a surprise but great shooting guards are becoming extinct. Consequently, anything resembling a good or average 2-guard is now somewhat overvalued. This begs the question: where does DeMar DeRozan fit in all of this?

Once upon a time, the Association was flooded with quality shooting guards. Indeed, the sheer rich amount of off-guards led many teams to build their franchises around them. Think of the Orlando Magic with Tracy McGrady, the Philadelphia 76ers with Allen Iverson or even the Toronto Raptors with Vince Carter.

But that is officially a thing of the past.

The NBA is now the home of three great 2-guards, maybe four if we stretch it: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, James Harden and Manu Ginobili (borderline selection).

The remaining guys that play the position are either one-dimensional or inconsistent players with potential. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with being a decent shooting guard, but a great one can take you places when flanked alongside a solid frontcourt.

This is where DeRozan’s potential comes in.

He is a talented and athletic player with a streaky jump shot. When lanes open up and he puts his head down in direction of the rim, good things tend to happen.

Mind you, the personnel coupled with the offensive schemes the Raptors use fail to consistently highlight his skills.

The Raptors are a bottom five 3-point shooting team. Because Toronto lacks shooters, it creates situations where the paint is often condensed by opposing defenses.

Consequently, DeRozan typically catches the ball on the wing and sees nothing but layers of defense. That partly explains why he spends a lot of time floating out on the perimeter.

Dwane Casey’s solution — a smart one — is to have his starting shooting guard catch the ball on the move. By receiving the ball already going towards the basket, it relieves him off the pressure of creating off the dribble and making decisions when swarmed.

The one problem with the strategy: opponents know it. Hence, they pack the paint, which in turn forces DeRozan to catch and shoot. Per Synergy Sports, the Raps’ 2-guard is converting 41.6 percent of his shots coming off screens.

For the sake of context, have a quick look at the conversion rate of other notable players at his position:


FG% Off Screens

Kobe Bryant


Manu Ginobili


Dwyane Wade


James Harden


DeRozan’s shooting percentage in this scenario is more than adequate in comparison to the league’s greats. The one caveat though: these four players rarely use off-ball screens for scores. In fact, for the most part, it’s the least used technique they use to generate shots per Synergy Sports.

In the case of DeRozan though, 16.2 percent of his field goal attempts stem from him coming off screens. That’s the second highest percentage of plays he uses to create shots.

Thus, several of his field goal attempts are being put up with defenders in his grill.

In other words, Toronto is misusing him.

Andrea Bargnani was supposed to help mitigate this issue. Camping him on the opposite side of the court would help stretch out the defense and remove one big man from the paint.

In addition, DeRozan could even curl off a Bargnani screen and when his defender would step up to thwart the guard, DeMar would be afforded with the possibility of dishing to Bargs for an open jumper.

Mind you, Il Mago’s lost shooting touch, coupled with his injury have certainly complicated matters for the offense.

Put it all together and DeMar DeRozan has taken the second most amount of midrange jumpers in the league this season per’s advanced stats tool. For a player with his athleticism, that’s a startling revelation.

The best 2-guards in the league are exceptional pick-and-roll players. They break down defenders off the bounce for scores and also find open teammates on the move.

The Toronto highflyer is not yet a great ball-handler or passer, so putting him in those situations would not benefit him or the Raptors.

In the offseason, Toronto would be best served by having the 23-year old work on these facets. It would certainly give the offense a new dimension and make the off-guard a bigger threat next season.

In terms of Casey’s concepts, tweaking them might be in order. DeRozan spends a lot of time on the weak side of the court looking like a Blue Jays outfielder whenever the Raptors run a play for another player.

It might behoove Toronto to have him set picks or come off screens even on the opposite side of the action for the sake of keeping defenders occupied. Also, he might even get free by doing so.

With Rudy Gay now a member of the team, one can only wonder if Casey will overhaul his philosophy and play an up-tempo offense. Between the starting wing players, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross, it might just be the best route for the unit.

DeRozan is part of the team’s future, perhaps the offense should occasionally reflect that.

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25 Responses to “The DeMar DeRozan Predicament”

  1. Fred Galang

    I don’t like Demar. Good kid, awesome work ethic, humble. As a player, he’s inefficient, a poor defender and a poorer ball handler. If there is a shortage of quality 2’s in this league, he should fetch a nice haul via a trade. I prefer Fields, who has a higher basketball IQ and is a much, much better perimeter defender. He’ll be nice alongside Gay as he will not demand the ball as much, moves and passes the ball much better and is a consumate glue guy.

      • theswirsky

        From the time Bosh left until the Rudy Gay trade the Raptors record with those two as option #1 and #2 was 31%. Then include that Demar’s contract is just starting (4 years)…..
        I don’t think adding Demar helps unload Bargnani.
        Unless there is a GM out there that thinks “hey you know we should try? What Bryan Colangelo has done!”

    • Tim W.

      Johnson’s well past his prime, Martin has always been one-dimensional, Gordon needs to be able to play more than 10 games in a row, and George has played exclusively SF this season.

  2. Tim W.

    Nice article. Rather short though, wasn’t it? I thought there was a 10 thousand word minimum, here.

    I would love for DeRozan to succeed because he’s such a hard worker and professional player, but I’d rather have a role player like Danny Green who can defend and hit the three. My problem with DeRozan is he’s not good enough to be a main scorer, but he doesn’t have skills that would allow him to be a good role player, so he’s stuck in the middle. Guys like DeRozan usually end up stuck on bad teams who need their scoring, inefficient as it is.

  3. Ted

    Derozan played quite effectively against Washington due to the inside presence of Val and Lowry attacking the rim breaking down the defense. Problem is Rudy Gay. Having Derozan alongside Landry would be a far more effective starting lineup(would be better if Landry can hit a 3). In addition, having two bigs on the floor help his effectiveness.

    The blame is on Casey. When you play Alan, Landry and Rudy at the 4 continuously your gonna lose cause of the lack of inside presence. Also, effects Derozans game as the opponents can force our wings to take jumpers as they clog the lane. Casey has to go.

      • smh

        Maybe Gay. Rumours are that there are still teams who wanted him at the trade deadline. Hoping to see a multi-team trade that would jettison AB as well.

  4. Jimi

    “The Toronto highflyer is not yet a great ball-handler or passer…(i)n the offseason, Toronto would be best served by having the 23-year old work on these facets.”

    This is the same mentality that led us to waste years with Bargnani. I’m dubious that high-level ball handling is a learnable skill; as far as I’ve seen, players generally have this ability when they come into the league. High-level passing is definitely not a learnable skill. Court vision is a trait a player will show very early on; Demar never has, and I’m certainly not expecting it to blossom.

    By their fourth year, and NBA player is what he is. Improvements to their game will be incremental. The one spot where I think it’s possible that he could improve is with his three point shooting, because he just needs to add a couple of feet to his range. But if he can’t do this, and if Rudy’s chosen as a player to go forward with (please God no), then I don’t think there’s a place for Demar on this team.

    • arsenalist

      I second that. Expecting players to improve to unrealistic levels has bit us in the past (e.g., Bosh to become a #1 option, Bargnani to do the same, TJ Ford to become a starting point, etc.). The difference with DeRozan is that he’s got a solid work ethic, which I don’t know is enough to get him to the next level. I think he’s able to do it, and what’s stopping him is (as this article points out) the guidance he’s receiving.

      We’ve seen players get rejuvenated in the past, just look at Zach Randolph or even O.J Mayo, but that happens quite infrequently. The problem is that guys like Randolph always had a post-game, they just never used it. For DeRozan, he can’t dribble the ball. That’s a BIG problem and I don’t know if you can go from having a dribble which you can barely control with moderate amount of pressure on you, to making it tight enough to drive the lane and shed defenders one-on-one, let alone pull moves in one-on-one situations (other than a fadeway which basically requires zero ball-handling).

      I don’t know if Casey can do anything to make DeMar a better ball-handler. That’s maybe a summer-time thing if all works out.

      I do agree with the article that he needs to be setting more screens and getting involved in the game other than just a rebounder and first-option scorer. That’s a Casey issue, and now that we’re past Casey’s honeymoon period where he was judged on getting the team to play with passable amount of effort, it’s what he’s going to be judged on next. I fear what the results will be.

      • Sam Holako

        Bosh is a #1 option, dude…did you not see the Spurs game a few nights ago? Will he be a #1 option for a championship team? No, but he can lead a good team to 50 wins.

        Look at the Raptors, the year he left, the Raptors won 20 less games from the year before with the exact same team. That has to tell you something.

        As far as TJ…he would have been fine if Al Horford didn’t rape him.

  5. theswirsky

    Aside from the greats to ever play the game, most successful SGs do one of two things – shoot/score or defend.

    Unfortunately Demar can do neither well. He’s neither a Rip Hamilton or a Tony Allen. He’s neither Ray Allen or a Bruce Bowen.

    He’s a Desmond Mason. Which is basically a high flyer that has no specific skill or ability.

    But whats worse is even what he’s best at, jumping high, isn’t combined with explosiveness or agression. He needs to build momentum to get up and when anything slows that down it turns into a lay up attempt. Even when he’s got a full head of steam going, a player challenging Demar almost always forces him to alter his shot. Its probably why Ross already has a longer highlight reel video archive than Demar.

    Demar is fast and can jump high – but isn’t quick, explosive, agile or aggresive. Combined with limited ball handling, passing, shooting and defensive instincts. Well you aren’t left with much.

    But he’s a good guy and a hard worker…. so thats awesome.

    Much like Bargnani, he’s been improperly used, developed and payed, because good ole Bryan thought he saw something special in him. (Or just thought he’d see lots of dunks so he could sell more tickets). Had this organization accepted Demar’s limitations from the get go… had pushed him much more into a role playing position, emphasized him learning and improving defense instead of trying to get him to improve the offensive skills he never had to begin with, he might actually be useful. Instead, again much like Bargnani, its a player with glaring weaknesses who needs to be compensated for instead of having a strength that could be used to fill a need or a role. Yet he’s managed to become a ‘core player’, whose contract is eating 15% of the salary cap, and is taking minutes away from players who show more ability and usefulness (Ross).

    Its just amazing how the more things changes the more they stay the same.

    I like Demar, I wish more players in this league had his attitude. But he is, yet again, a great example of Bryan Colangelo’s failures.

    • GD

      What has Terrence Ross showed you that would make you believe that he has anything more than potential because he is currently so off the mark of NBA serviceability that plugging him into the starting lineup would do nothing but create weaker play. Even if Demar is inconsistent he still shows enough potential on a regular basis that makes me believe that he can be a 20ppg scorer.

  6. Brasky

    It’s madness to take the same approach with Derozan as was done with Bargnani. Along with overblown athleticism, he just doesn’t have a very good feel for the game, and has barely improved since he’s came into the league. Would have been a nice potential spark plug off the bench.

      • Brasky

        Nope. Derozan as a valuable piece went straight out the window once he was handed that contract. Should have flipped him last year.

  7. Fire Colangelo NOW

    Simple analysis is required here. We’ve a shooting guard who can’t shoot 3’s, plays no defense at all, and does other things at an average basis. Making compensating moves to accomodate this type of player will get us no where to the end goal and overpaying him on a long basis just leads us to an endless spiral for our franchise. Can everyone wake up and smell the coffee !!!

  8. BadDinosaur

    I’d go with DeRozan for another year. I’d agree to trading him before the all-star break next season, IF he doesn’t improve his outside shooting. We can forget about DeMar ever becoming a great or a very good ballhandler, playmaker. He can probably become a little better ballhandler than he currently is, but only marginally. Where I see potential with him is the shooting. If over the off-season he can improve his shooting, make his mid-range game more consistent and stretch his range to the 3-point line (shooting above 33% from deep), then he is a keeper for another year. Otherwise I think we could get something more useful in return in a package with Bargs or maybe Lowry (say a star PG like Deron Williams gets frustrated with the Nets and wants out). But I still have some faith in DeRozan, him being only 23 years old, there is still room for considerable improvement.

  9. Bem

    One of the biggest problems with this team is that we have too many wing guys. DD, Gay, TRoss, Fields. If Fields can fix his shot over the summer (he’s an unmovable contract at this point, and that’s a big IF), and TRoss improves in his second year in the league, there isn’t enough minutes unless we’re playing one of these guys at the 4 for major minutes (please no).
    As it stands, I don’t see us being able to move Bargnani for much, which leaves us stuck with him (BC is not going to amnesty him, but we’ll hopefully use it on Kleisa), AJ and JV playing the 4-5. Granted, Bargs will probably miss 30 games again. AJ can come off the bench and play either the 4 or 5, which is important, but moving any of the wing players for a decent big would seem like the best way forward, even if we want to tank and get a high pick next year.

    So, possible solutions? It seems to me that one of the wing guys should be gone before next season, but which one, and for what? There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of solutions out there, but someone mentioned DD for Williams and Ridnour and the more I think about it, the more that seems like something we should consider. The salaries work (they will at the end of the season, but don’t on the ESPN trade machine now because it doesn’t calculate poison pill). We get a guy that has never lived up to the hype (and will never get time behind Love) and a capable backup PG, plus some kind of protected pick (top 3 or 5?). Brandon Roy hasn’t worked out and Malcolm Lee and Alexey Shved are the only other 2s on the roster for Minnesota.

    I’m not sure how BC will see it though. He just signed DD to an extension, made a major trade for Gay, has said that TRoss is unavailable, and Fields is all but untradeable. One thing for certain, the spin machine should be up and running over the summer. It’ll either be “He’s a great player, and the organization is going to miss him, but we had to make this move to get us to the next level” or “We really feel like the moves we made last season make us a quality playoff team and the guys just needed a summer together to get to know each other”.


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