• DeMar DeRozan showed against the 76ers that a long-thought dormant part of his game—taking and making threes—can be a strength when he's hot.
By Rohan Nadkarni
December 21, 2017

When it comes to shot selection on offense, DeMar DeRozan is basically your friend that still uses a flip phone. DeRozan has always been able to fill up the box score (he can still make phone calls), but he could find so many more easy points if he expanded his game to three-point line. Case in point? Thursday against the 76ers, a 114-109 Raptors win in which DeRozan scored a career-high 45 points, aided by 13 free throws and … [double take] [rubs eyes] [owl hoots in the distance] six threes?!?!?

The six threes were also a career high for DeRozan, who’s been on a bit of a scoring tear lately. He’s scored at least 28 points in four of his last five, which include two 30-point games and Thursday’s 45-point barrage. There’s never been any question that DeRozan can score. He hits numerous tough shots around the elbow, and he constantly battles his way to the free-throw line. It’s easy to sit at home in a stained T-shirt calling on him to shoot more threes ... but look at what it can do for his offense!

It’s just remarkable that a guard as offensively talented as DeRozan has never committed to solidifying his outside game. He’s making less than one three per game this season. In his career, DeRozan has taken 1.5 attempts per game from downtown. His backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, is averaging more than seven attempts from three this season. Is DeRozan not willing to add the three to his arsenal, or has he already tried (and failed) at extending his range?

To put DeRozan’s offense into a broader context, consider Russell Westbrook. Remember how inefficient Westbrook was for chunks last season? Russ shot 4.2 percentage points worse than DeRozan from the field a year ago. But because Westbrook wasn’t afraid to launch threes, his true shooting percentage was actually slightly better than DeMar’s.

DeRozan’s playoff struggles can’t all be attributed to his reluctance to shoot from deep, but it certainly doesn’t help. The Raptors become easier to guard in a seven-game series, and it’s a detriment to everyone on the floor when Toronto’s best player shrinks the floor considerably.

But let’s not spend all this time complaining about DeRozan. He’s playing really well right now, and more importantly, he’s leading Toronto to wins. Lowry is averaging his fewest points per game in the last five seasons, but DeRozan has been as steady as ever. After months of not finding success with Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka playing together, the Raptors’ starting five is thriving with the addition of rookie OG Anunoby. The Lowry-DDR-OG-Ibaka-Jonas lineup had a net rating of 20.5 entering Thursday. Last season, the Ibaka-Valanciunas pairing had a negative-1.8 net rating. This year, that pair has an 8.6 net rating when sharing the court.

All of this has put the Raptors ahead of Cleveland in the East standings, and tied with Boston in the loss column. Toronto is firmly in third place in net efficiency, four points higher than the Celtics, and nearly five points higher than the Spurs(!!).

Basically, keep shooting, DeMar. Just don’t be afraid to take a few steps back when you’re letting them fly.

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