During the course of the regular season, DeMar DeRozan took significant steps towards becoming the type of franchise player that the Toronto Raptors had hoped for when they drafted him in 2009.
With 22.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 4.3 RPG, DeRozan was an All-Star for the first time in his five-year career in 2013-14, and has been the one player that basketball fans outside of Toronto most associate with the Raptors since Chris Bosh joined a pair of fellow classmates in Miami.
But it hasn’t been easy for the 24-year-old to shoulder the responsibilities that come with being the unofficial centerpiece of a struggling franchise, and until this season, DeRozan was on vacation by the time that the end of April rolled around following another disappointing campaign.
Now, locked in a battle with the Brooklyn Nets to survive the opening round of his playoff debut, DeRozan has been the obvious focal point for Toronto’s offense with 24.5 PPG through the first four games. But head coach Dwane Casey feels that the Raptors’ budding superstar could be doing more. In an interview with ESPN on Monday, Casey’s reluctance to praise Toronto’s leading man was apparent in his comments.
”There’s still room for growth on his part and he knows it — on the defensive end and places in the offensive area.”
A born slasher, DeRozan has done much of his damage late in games from the free throw line after drawing contact from Brooklyn defenders. However, he has a long way to go before earning a reputation as a formidable shooter, and the Nets have zeroed in on the youngster’s weakness. Over the first four games of the series, Brooklyn has held DeRozan to a concerning 36 percent shooting from the field, and when your leading scorer hits less than 40 percent of his shots, problems are constantly on the horizon.
And while DeRozan was a solid 82 percent from the charity stripe this past season and leads the playoffs with an 87.5 percent mark from the line, the lack of a dependable, mid-range jumper was a big factor in his 3-of-13 shooting performance in Game 1. However, with his playoff jitters now a thing of the past, he’s quickly become a serious offensive threat in the NBA‘s second season, and his ability to put ego aside and distribute the ball in order to put the team ahead of any personal gains may be his greatest asset.