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Rosen: DeMar DeRozan and a Tale of Two Games

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There were two games within Indiana’s 106-90 win over Toronto on Monday night. In the first game, the Raptors bulls-eyed their shots, played sniping defense and won by 21 points. In the second game, the Pacers returned the favor and outscored the visiting Raptors by 37 points.

Unfortunately for Toronto, their dominance only extended through the first six minutes.

Through it all, the visitor’s best player, DeMar DeRozan, had an interesting performance.

MINUTES = 38

After playing the entire third quarter, DeRozan was only rested for 1:49 before being rushed back into the game. Perhaps that’s why he was only 1-6 from the field upon his re-entry.

For sure, he normally plays a bit more than 36 minutes/game, but properly spacing any player’s on-court time is critical for consistency and avoiding injury.

Also, DeRozan was finally pulled with 3:27 in the game. Had the game been close at that point, it’s conceivable that he would have logged over 41 minutes.

FGM-A = 7-18

That would be 6-12 without his all but useless play in the fourth quarter. And counted among his misses were a missed layup in an early-offense opportunity, as well as a pull-right jumper that hit nothing.

In any event, DeRozan was put in post-up iso-situations a total of four times. Twice, DeRozan couldn’t get shots off when neither Rodney Stuckey nor Chase Budinger bit on rather casual fakes. And he missed a turn-around jumper over C. J. Miles. Then, after Budinger did buy a fake, DeRozan scored on a nifty duck-under move.

DeRozan was also 1-2 in wing-isos.

In all of these sequences, DeRozan relied on fakes and an occasional spin rather than any kind of crossover move.

It’s clear that he’s more effective either shooting outright or driving when coming off of the several high-screens and staggered screens that were set-up for his benefit. However, in this game, at least, the Pacers did an admirable job of jump-switching on the nether side of most of these screens, therefore denying DeRozan good looks.

DeRozan is obviously a right-hand-dominant shot-maker, but his most sensational bucket resulted when he took his left-hand to the left-baseline and knocked down a spinning, off-balance jumper from 10-feet.

It says here, that Toronto’s point guards—Kyle Lowry (7-14) and Cory Joseph (0-6)—didn’t look for DeRozan as much as they should. Plus, Lowry and Joseph combined for four assists as against eight TOs and repeatedly over-handled.

3FGM-A = 2-4

He dropped one of these when he was open in a semi-fastbreak situation, missed two open tries after receiving kick-out passes, but his last trey was a beauty. DeRozan made a jab step that suggested he would use a screen set to his left, then made a quick dribble-right for the shot.

Since his stroke looks smooth, it’s somewhat surprising that he’s shooting only 23.7% from beyond the arc.

FTM-A = 4-5

He faked Paul George off the floor twice and bagged three of the resulting four free throws. Also, his successful off-balance jumper going left resulted in an “and-one” call.

REB = 5

All of them of the defensive variety, and only a single freebie.

AST = 2

A kick-out pass enabled Lowry to bury a wide-open trey. An identical sequence had Patrick Patterson also bagging a three-pointer.

Off his right-handed drives, DeRozan also dropped a pair of neat passes to Bismack Biyombo that the big man fumbled. Moreover, four of DeRozan’s passes created open shots that his teammates missed.

DeRozan is anything but a shot-hog!

Dec 14, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) has the ball stripped away by Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Toronto 106-90. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 14, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) has the ball stripped away by Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Toronto 106-90. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

ST = 2

He intercepted a long, lazy crosscourt pass. That’s one steal.

When I focus on a single player, as I did in this game, I watch the player and only peripherally watch the game. That said, I have recourse to replay and only noted a single steal—and the official play-by-play stat sheet did the same. So where did DeRozan’s second steal come from?

Nobody that I know knows.

This has happened in several other games.

Which calls into question the veracity of some official numbers. Or else I simply suffer from chronic brain-lock—which, more often than not, is probably the real truth!

BLK = 1

DeRozan got his hand on one of George’s rare drives hoopward.

Overall, DeRozan’s defense left much to be desired. He didn’t always try to fight his way through screens, and on several plays he wandered too far away from George to offer help to his backcourt mate. These failures resulted in George’s making two treys, in addition to allowing PG to drive unmolested to the hoop—where he missed a layup, but was able to execute two interior passes for dunks.

Plus, DeRozan didn’t always throw a hand at the ball when his man released a shot in his general vicinity.

On the plus side, DeRozan was caught guarding the 6’10”, 240-pound Jordan Hill on an unavoidable switch. But the 6’7”, 230 DeRozan manned-up, held his ground and forced Hill to make a harmless out-pass. And he denied Budinger a shot opportunity when he chased Chase around a high screen.

For DeRozan, though, defense was a sometimes thing.

TO = 2

A sloppy pass that Miles intercepted, and a charging foul when DeRozan tried to force his way into a crowd.

PF = 2

The charge, plus a too-late stab at Hill’s dribble after making a too-late rotation.

PTS = 20

Only 1.7 off his per-game average, but he needs to get better shots, i.e., wing and/or baseline isos.

In addition to his 20 points, credit DeRozan’s plus column (given NBA’s total average of points per possession is close to 2.0) with four points that his two assists created, plus another four on his steals. Subtract George’s six points on his watch along with four points that PG dished, and the four points resulting from DeRozan’s two TOs.

That adds up to a +14 individual contribution. Much better—and more meaningful—than the -11 recorded in the official box score.

VERDICT

Yes, it’s difficult for a team’s go-to scorer to have much leftover energy and concentration to play top-notch defense, but the all-time best ones managed to play all-out at both ends of the game. Certainly DeRozan does not belong in the same category as Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Sidney Moncrief, and other iconic two-way players. It should also be considered that playing full-time defense increases the risk of accumulating fouls, which means more time on the bench.

Still, DeRozan is advised to step up his defensive intensity—not to mention, improving his left-handed handle.

So, then, since he will be a free agent next year, what is DeMar DeRozan worth?

With the dawning of a huge increase in the salary cap, all free-agent salaries will be sky-high. Counting all of his expected bonuses, DeRozan’s salary for 2015-16 is around $10.5 million. In normal circumstances, he’d probably rate a $5 million yearly increase. But under the new dispensation, he’ll most likely sign a long-term deal averaging in the neighborhood of $20 million.

Is DeRozan worth that much?

Not really.

But in the inflationary new and wonderful world of the NBA, the going rate for certified All-Stars will approach a billion dollars a dozen.

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