VIDEO: DeMar DeRozan was in the zone against the Wasington Wizards
BROOKLYN — If you’re a fan of how the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs play, DeMar DeRozan might not be your cup of tea.
According to Synergy tracking, DeRozan has isolated almost 100 more times than anyone on the Spurs this season. DeRozan has isolated on almost 18 percent of his possessions, the highest rate of his career. Only 31 percent of his field goals have been assisted, down from 45 percent last season. And according to SportVU, more than 57 percent of his jump shots have been contested, the second highest rate (behind only Kobe Bryant) among players who have taken at least 200 jumpers.
In regard to putting points on the board, DeRozan does a lot of his own work and wouldn’t fit in very well in Golden State or San Antonio. Stephen Curry is a one-on-one player who takes tough shots, right? Well, Curry has been assisted on almost half (47 percent) of his buckets and only 37 percent of his jumpers have been contested.
In his career, DeRozan has shot just 36 percent on isolations, just 34 percent this season, according to Synergy. He’s always been a volume scorer, not an efficient one.
Until this year. True shooting percentage measures scoring efficiency: how well you score in regard to the number of shots from the field you take from the field and the number of trips to the line you make. And for the first time since his rookie season, DeRozan has a true shooting percentage above the league average.
DeRozan has improved as a shooter this year, mostly because he’s cut down on mid-range shots. Last season, DeRozan took 51.3 percent of his shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the fifth highest rate among players who attempted at least 500 total shots. And he was a below-average mid-range shooter.
He still is. But he’s better and only four players who took at least 500 shots last season and have taken at least 250 shots this year have cut down on their mid-range shots more than DeRozan.
Only one of the four (DeMarcus Cousins) is a high-usage player like DeRozan, and he’s done it by taking 3.7 3-pointers per game after attempting only eight threes all of last season. DeRozan has made only a slight increase in the percentage of his shots that come from beyond the arc. He’s still not a 3-point shooter. But he’s cut down on mid-range shots by attacking the basket more.
DeRozan ranks second in the league with 11.8 drives per game, up from 7.9 (18th in the league) last season. More than 50 percent of his shots have come from the paint. And while DeRozan has always been one of the best in the league at drawing shooting fouls away from the basket, more drives has resulted in more trips to the line.
If you can get to the line, you can make up for the fact that you don’t shoot very well. And DeRozan is the next closest thing to James Harden in regard to drawing fouls. For the second straight season, Harden leads the league in both free throws made and attempted. This season, DeRozan ranks second.
DeRozan knows the numbers. He’s aware that mid-range shots are the worst on the floor and that the most efficient way to score is at the line. But his improvement this season is about more than that.
“I enjoy the contact,” he said after the Raptors’ win in Brooklyn on Wednesday. “It’s fun to me. I like doing it. James Harden is one of my good friends and we always joke about that in the summertime, who can shoot the most free throws. Something like that is a little challenge that’s beneficial for the team. And I just carry that over.”
DeRozan’s game may not be aesthetically pleasing, but you can say now that it’s effective.