DeMar DeRozan has been selected as a 2014 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star.
Congratulations are in order for DeRozan, who ahs worked tirelessly over the past five years to evolve into semi-efficient and dangerous scoring weapon for the Raptors. While Kyle Lowry unfairly got passed over, which sucks, at least the Raptors have one All-Star representative.
If that sounds like no big deal, consider that DeRozan is just the fourth Raptor to ever earn an All-Star nod (the team’s 12th appearance in total) and just the third to be selected by fans or coaches (Antonio Davis was an injury fill-in). You’ll notice, however, that the Raptors have only once had two All-Stars in a single year, which might explain part of the annoyance with the perceived Lowry snub.
Vince Carter – five appearances, 1999-2000 to 2003-04
Chris Bosh – five appearances, 2005-06 to 2009-10
Antonio Davis – one appearance, 2000-01
DeMar DeRozan – one appearance, 2013-14
It should be a proud day for the franchise and the fanbase, both of which have supported the fan-favorite DeRozan as he worked through some earlier flaws and growing pains to get to this point. He’s come a long way, and the All-Star nod is a well-deserved acknowledgement of that progress.
Asked earlier Thursday to make the case for himself as an All-Star, DeRozan said “To me, it’s obvious,” adding that he wasn’t trying to be cocky, he just thought he deserved it.
He’s not wrong. The case is pretty simple: DeRozan leads all East guards in scoring with 21.8 points a game and chips in with 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals, numbers that have been climbing as the season’s gone along. He’s also the alpha-dog on the league’s 13th best offense, a 24-21 team that ranks third in the Eastern Conference. Those things matter to the coaches who vote, and they surely recognized DeRozan’s contributions to a somewhat-surprising success story.
While efficiency stats and other advanced measures don’t like him quite as much, they still rank him as a likely All-Star; of the eight East guards who could be considered candidates, DeRozan ranks fifth in PER and last in true shooting percentage but does so with the second highest usage rate in the group (and efficiency is more difficult with higher usage) and the second-lowest turnover rate. In all, he ranks fourth in the group in Win Shares and would be perhaps third if coaches ranked “guys we have to gameplan around the most,” which, again, probably matters in the voting.
While “improvement” doesn’t necessitate an All-Star appearance, it’s worth reflecting on how DeRozan’s game has evolved since his rookie season.
While his 3-point shot still hasn’t gotten to a place the team would like to see it, DeRozan has, season-by-season, made incremental gains in several key areas. He’s probably still below-average defensively but has improved in that regard; he’s gotten to the free-throw line more and more; he’s played a bigger and bigger role in the offense; and most impressively, his passing has come along a great deal.
The improved vision – particularly off the bounce – is something I’m hoping to eventually get to talk to DeRozan about, and it’s been the most important change in his game. Teams can still double when DeRozan drives but he’s now flashing a consistent ability to find the open man when they do so – this improves his assist rate and could also be part of the reason his free throw attempts have climbed, as teams have to be more timid doubling him (and/or he has additional confidence being aggressive). His mid-range game has always been an effective weapon but the willingness to facilitate makes every drive more dangerous, improving the other tools in his offensive arsenal.
You know what DeRozan largely was before this year? A wing scorer with average efficiency. You know what he is now? A far-more-dangerous number one option who makes his teammates better. They’re arbitrary numbers, sure, but only seven other players in the league are averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Six of them are All-Stars and the other is Russell Westbrook, who would be if he were healthy.
Now, would DeRozan make it in the West? Probably not. Can you make a case DeRozan wasn’t a slam-dunk selection in the East? A thin one, I suppose. If the Raptors were told “hey, you’re only getting one All-Star no matter what,” my vote would have gone to Lowry. But DeRozan is certainly not undeserving – he’s come a long way as a player and every shred of evidence suggests that there’s nobody who works harder. DeRozan deserves this honor and it’s a good day for the franchise.
So congratulations, DeMar. You earned it.