A career season for DeMar DeRozan has resulted in some well-deserved respect, coming in the form of end-of-season hardware.
DeRozan was named to the All-NBA Third-Team, the league announced Thursday. The All-NBA teams were announced ahead of the June 26 league award show due to their potential impact on contracts in the summer, though that issue does not apply in the case of DeRozan.
In earning All-NBA honors, DeRozan joins Kyle Lowry (2015-16, 3rd Team), Chris Bosh (2007, 2nd Team), Vince Carter (2001, 2nd Team; 2000, 3rd Team) as the only Toronto Raptors to do so. The highest a Raptor has ever finished in MVP voting is seventh (Bosh, 2007), a mark DeRozan probably won’t hit, though he’ll likely get a handful of fifth-place votes.
The All-NBA teams were as follows:
Based on voting totals, DeRozan was the last guard in, earning four second-team votes and 50 third-team votes, good for 62 points. That narrowly beat out Chris Paul (49) and was comfortably ahead of Kyrie Irving (14), Klay Thompson (14), and Damian Lillard (12). Lowry did not receive any votes.
There will surely be some who quibble with DeRozan’s inclusion, which is fair given the heated field he was battling within. There were a lot of really, really good guards this year, and the fact that the Raptors had a better net rating with DeRozan off the floor than on, and that DeRozan is a minus defender, can help craft a case against him. If you’re a believer that 60 games is enough to qualify here, Paul and even Lowry have arguments for inclusion (the fact that Durant was voted in but Paul seemed to be punished for missing time is curious to me). Opinions will vary on what the unofficial playing-time cut-off is here, and DeRozan appearing on only 54 of 100 ballots speaks to that. I don’t think I’d be able to bring myself to get too worked up about any of the six guards, Paul, or Lowry winding up with the six spots. They were all great, and close, and there’s no set criteria to work within here.
DeRozan’s case was always going to come down to a split between himself, Paul, and the other guards listed, and him getting the nod here speaks to Paul’s missed time but also to DeRozan’s incredible season. In taking yet another step forward offensively, DeRozan averaged 27.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists, doing so more efficiently than in years past. DeRozan posted a 55.2 true-shooting percentage that comes up short of only his rookie campaign, had a career-best player efficiency rating of 24, turned the ball over in a career-low nine percent of possessions, and did all of this with a ridiculous 34.3-percent usage rate, by far the highest of his career.
Everything we know about efficiency tells us it’s harder and harder to maintain as usage ratchets up, so DeRozan sustaining and even improving as his role grew really speaks to his improvement in his eighth NBA season. That DeRozan gets better each year is no longer surprising, but at the same time it is. Without a consistent 3-point shot – he did shoot 40 percent on 50 attempts from the corners – and with limited defense, the ceiling would appear to only be so high for DeRozan, yet he nudges it higher with each passing year. While his assist numbers didn’t increase, it may have been DeRozan’s playmaking that took the biggest step forward, with his ability to navigate the pick-and-roll amidst heavy pressure improving noticeably. That proved important, too, because with DeRozan’s phenomenal post-up game, smooth mid-range attack, and ability to get to the free-throw line nearly at will, opponents spent the season selling out to get the ball out of his hands.
When it comes to the offensive end of the floor, few can boast as strong a regular season as DeRozan. That he helped keep the Raptors afloat through Lowry’s absence, when the team went 14-7 and DeRozan took over as the team’s primary initiator, likely solidified his case. It helped bookend his season with incredible stretches of offensive dominance, too, as DeRozan had started the season a house afire. As a result of his success, he was named Player of the Week on four occasions during the regular season and made his third All-Star Game, earning the nod as a starter for the Eastern Conference.
DeRozan also became the Raptors’ franchise leader in games played, minutes played, and points. It was truly a remarkable year for the former No. 9 pick, who continues to solidify himself as one of the best and most important players in Raptors history.