Where Does DeRozan Fit?

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Editors Note: RR would like to welcome Blake Murphy as a regular contributor to The Republic. Blake publishes The On Deck Circle, and is a rabid sports fan. We are very pleased to have him on board, and are sure that y’all will enjoy what he has to say…

The Toronto Raptors swung for the fences with the #9 overall pick this year. In a draft thought to have very little superstar talent but a bevy of serviceable role players, Bryan Colangelo et al took the player still on the board who had the highest upside, USC product: DeMar DeRozan.

Irrelevant to this article, I went back and forth in my head trying to figure out my feelings on DeMar as the pick. On one hand, he wasn’t a superstar at USC. On the other, though, he showed marked improvement as a college freshman, wanted to come to Toronto, and is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Throw in his YouTube highlight reels and his apparent commitment to being a better player at both ends of the floor, and I was sold.

So as summer league took place I tried to watch closely. I ended up watching two and a half of the Raptors’ five games, and read as much as possible about the games afterward. A few days removed from the entire experience, and I’m still trying to figure something out…

Where exactly does DeRozan fit with the Raptors?

By all accounts, he is ready to be a contributor. He scored with relative ease in the Pac-10 and the Summer League, his defense will be serviceable, and his shooting touch seems to have developed even since the end of the college season in March. The reports I have read, and my own observations, lead me to believe that DeRozan should fit in with this current Raptors squad immediately. A David Thorpe tweet (I can’t believe I’m citing tweets) outlined the following:

DeMar DeRozan really comes off the curl with speed, balance and elevation-very controlled. Will come off a decade’s worth of pindowns.

ESPN.com’s TrueHoop added the following:

He also rarely takes a bad shot — uncommon among rookies and in Summer League, and particularly uncommon among rookies in Summer League.

It’s clear that DeRozan is ready to be an efficient contributor. His ability to get an open look, his open-court athleticism, and his beyond-his-age decision making should make him a popular target for Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh, and Hedo Turkoglu. The Raptors project as a team that shares the ball pretty well, with four of five potential starters (Bosh, Calderon, Turkoglu, and DeRozan) capable of handling the rock, creating their own shot, and finding teammates. For a team that did well spacing the floor and moving the ball last season, DeRozan’s offensive fluidity and versatility should be a welcome addition.

While DeRozan may be an immediate fit, as I mentioned, the Raptors were hoping to swing for the fences with this pick. An NBA-ready contributor with the #9 pick is nothing to be upset about, but if Colangelo was hoping to add another superstar to pair with Chris Bosh moving forward, there are still question marks. Another David Thrope tweet explains:

I don’t see DeRozan force plays very much. That’s both good and bad. Bad because he ends up not making much happen for anyone…including himself.

Additionally, DeRozan’s defense, while adequate for Summer League, is not yet at a level to guard starting NBA 2-guards, especially on a team with perimeter defense as bad as Toronto’s promises to be. TSN’s Tim Chisholm felt similar:

His defense was certainly a work in progress, as was expected after one year of college ball. He looked lost A LOT off of the ball, rarely moving or using his length to disrupt plays, and he was beaten by his man frequently. While this isn’t a huge issue for a rookie like DeRozan, who was seen primarily as a scorer/athlete, it probably affects the plans of the Raptors going forward.

So the Raptors may not have found ‘the answer’ in DeRozan, yet. He promises to be an exciting player immediately, and someone who should contribute at an acceptable level on the offensive end. Ultimately, his potential depends as much on the other Raptors as himself; if Jay Triano and the Raptors’ ball handlers can do a good job of getting DeRozan his fair share of looks and opportunities, I feel he has superstar-level offensive potential. He has repeated his desire to learn and improve as well, which is always a good sign.

Of course, the Raptors may not need a second superstar to pair with Bosh. While the NBA has been dominated, Cavaliers excluded, by deep teams with several stars as of late, the Raptors boast a strong top-six with the addition of Jarrett Jack (and possibly top-seven if Delfino is, in fact, re-signed). To steal an overused baseball analogy, sometimes when you swing for the fences you end up with a single or a double…in the Raptors’ case, a hit of any kind should suffice in the short term.

The fellas at Netscouts checked in with an exclusive interview with DeRozan:

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