“James who?” Matt Devlin exclaimed when DeMar DeRozan hit a fourth-quarter three in the latest Raptors win over the Bulls.
Shortly after Matty D disrespected James Harden, another broadcaster brought DeRozan’s accomplishments into focus, explaining how DeMar developed his newest weapon by shooting 300 three-pointers daily.
DeMar’s continuous drive to improve seems woven into his personality at the genetic level, but his latest progression marks his final evolution into an NBA superstar. DeRozan’s become an unguardable scoring presence, and his inspiration percolates throughout the rest of the Raptors rotation. Partly due to DeRozan’s heroics, Bodog Canada currently has the Raptors as seventh favourites, at +3300, to win the 2018 NBA title.
DeMar’s Perimeter Prowess Changes Court Geometry
Prior to the last eight games, opposing defenders could safely sag off DeRozan around the perimeter, giving themselves extra space to stop dribble drives. If DeMar was having a superb evening, interior defence could quickly collapse into a double-team around the key, reducing his efficiency.
Over his last eight matches, DeRozan became red-hot from beyond the arc, hitting 3.1 of 5.8 three-point attempts. Shooting a high volume of threes at a .543 rate alters the geometry on court, creating immense benefit for Toronto’s offence.
DeRozan’s Gravity Changes Defensive Shape
Defenders can no longer shy away from DeRozan at the perimeter. Instead, the opposition must gravitate towards him when he possesses the ball beyond the arc. DeMar’s presence rivals the best scorers in the association, creating enough gravity to pull attention from multiple defenders.
Now that DeRozan torches teams from the land of three, the opposition needs to remain close to prevent open looks. This helps to create extra space for Raptors shooters, also making it easier for DeMar to drive to the bucket.
Double-Teaming DeMar’s More Dangerous Than Ever
DeRozan possesses more options than ever when handling the ball at the top of the arc.
He finishes with either hand at the rim while drawing fouls, pops Kobe-style two-pointers efficiently and hits threes at an impressive rate. A single defender won’t stop him on most nights, forcing the opposition to double-team.
Prior to his three-point breakout, DeRozan developed strong handles and learned how to distribute the ball well, reducing the effectiveness of double-teaming the Raptors all-star. Instead of turning the ball over under pressure, DeMar will consistently get to his spot on-court, or find an open teammate. Good luck to those who foul DeRozan – he’s hit 33 consecutive free throws between December 27th and January 3rd.
Late in the fourth quarter, Chicago fruitlessly attempted a triple-team DeMar. Surrounded by Bulls around the top of the key, DeRozan kicked to a wide-open Kyle Lowry, who promptly sunk a three-point dagger.
DeMar dished eight dimes on the same day he broke the Raptors single-game scoring record against the Bucks, and followed up with six helpers and 35 points against the Bulls.
It’s not a coincidence that Delon Wright earned a career-high 25 points against Chicago. Double-teaming DeRozan and defending him closely on the perimeter changes on-court geometry, again favouring the rest of the Raptors offence.
Who Will DeRozan Torch Next Week?
Raptors at Bucks – January 5th
DeRozan’s rank dropped from 30th to 39th in ESPN’s top player list, and Sports Illustrated decided that DeMar was the 36th best player in the NBA before the start of the season. Following his 52-point night with another banger against Giannis and the Bucks will continue to shame American roundball experts.
Raptors at Nets – January 8th
Toronto’s won nine in a row against the Brooklyn Nets, including a 120-87 shellacking at the ACC on December 15th. The Nets improved this year, but they simply don’t have the firepower to compete against the Raptors, especially without point guards D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin.
Heat at Raptors – January 9th
The Heat have played much better ball over the past couple of weeks. They also possess solid defence, especially if Waiters and Winslow return to health against the Raps. This matchup will be a bit more challenging because of the lack of rest during back-to-back games on consecutive days. Still, the Raptors should be solid favourites considering their NBA-best home record.
Cavaliers at Raptors – January 11th
If the Cavs don’t rest LeBron or Isaiah, this will be one of the more important matches the Raptors play this season. Beating the Cavaliers at close to full power would send a statement to the rest of the association. Expect Ibaka to get extremely physical with James if the King spins the ball in Serge’s grill again.