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NBA Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan Becoming One of the League’s Best Shooting Guards

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

After signing a contract extension at the beginning of the season, DeMar DeRozan is rewarding the Toronto Raptors by developing into one of the league’s best shooting guards.

DeRozan signed a four-year, $38 million extension on Halloween and through the first two months of the season is having no trouble living up to the contract.

Closing out 2012, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard is near the top of several categories compared to the rest of the league at his position.

He has the fifth best scoring average for shooting guards in the league behind Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Dwayne Wade and O.J. Mayo. He’s the fourth best rebounder, ahead of guys like Harden, Wade, Mayo and defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha. He has the fourth most free-throw attempts per game behind only Harden, Bryant and Wade. He’s also fourth in minutes per game, 9th in field goal percentage (only 0.06% off Andre Iguodala in sixth place), and 11th in steals among shooting guards.

DeRozan might not be an all-star this season, but he’s certainly among the all-stars with his averages of 18.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, two assists and 1.2 steals. He’s shooting 44.2% from the field and attempting 5.1 free throws a game while shooting 82.2% when he gets to the line.

The three-year veteran has taken major leaps this season in his development averaging career highs in nearly every category. Clearly his time on Team USA’s practice squad over the summer has given DeRozan extra confidence heading into this season.

The 11-20 Raptors have won seven of their last eight games with DeRozan leading the way offensively for the majority of the win streak. In the seven victories he’s averaging 20 points, five rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting 84% from the free throw line on 6.2 attempts per game. He’s done it while being the team’s number one option offensively with Andrea Bargnani out of the line-up and until the previous two games, Kyle Lowry as well.

DeRozan isn’t without his faults, he did only record eight points and two rebounds in a 100-80 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the team’s only defeat in the past eight games. However, he quickly rebounded two days later dropping 30 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals, shooting 11 for 13 from the charity stripe in a 104-97 victory against the New Orleans Hornets.

He’s not in the all-star category yet, but there’s no denying he’s showing the potential he one day could be.

His quickness and athleticism are translating to the defensive side for the first time in his career. He’s taking the explosiveness fans are use to seeing him attack the rim with and using it to bother opponents defensively along with averaging nearly two more rebounds than a year ago. He’s bought into coach Dwane Casey’s defensive system and his confidence is visibly growing as he becomes more comfortable with his role in each passing game.

Offensively, his game continues to find ways to evolve. As team’s give him space trying to play him for the drive, DeRozan is showing his jump shot has improved immensely since last season. His three-point shot remains a work in progress however he’s more than capable of knocking down a mid-range jumper with consistency, something that wasn’t always the case a year ago. His career high free-throw percentage has also given him the confidence to attack the bucket more often, something he’s done recently on the win streak after getting away from it towards the end of November.

He might not be an all-star, but DeRozan has shown he’s become one of the league’s top five shooting guards.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the Toronto Raptors for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts