NBA@2: Raptors Need More From DeRozan
At times, Toronto Raptors shooting guard has looked like a future All-Star, someone who could help the Raptors emerge from their . . .well . . .franchise-long rebuilding process. In the team’s 16-year existence the Raptors have made the playoffs just five times, losing in the first round four of those times. Andrea Bargnani has been the focal point ever since Chris Bosh walked away, and under new head coach Dwane Casey Bargnani has even started to look like an All-Star-caliber player.
Now the Raptors need DeMar DeRozan to take the next step.
“DeMar is a guy who works so hard in the summer time, like he does during the season,” Bargnani tells HOOPSWORLD. “During the season he comes back to work in the afternoons even when it might be a time off. He always wants to work on his game, and when you work like this it’s going to pay off. There’s no doubt. He’s going to keep getting better and nobody can stop him from getting better.”
This season DeRozan has added the one thing he never had, which is a money three-point shot. After making just four as a rookie (4-16) and five last season (5-52), DeRozan has taken that part of his game to new heights. Already in 2011-12 he’s made 10-of-23, good for 46%. Even with that improvement, though, he’s averaging just 14.1 points per game after scoring 17.2 per contest last season. He’s also shooting a career-worst 41% overall. DeRozan knows he has to produce more for his team to be competitive.
“It starts with Dre’ (Andrea Bargnani) and myself,” DeRozan tells HOOPSWORLD. “We try and take that challenge and have everyone else feed off of our energy. It’s a role that both of us are going to have to take on and it should be fun.”
Of course, part of the reason DeRozan’s scoring is down is that Bargnani is scoring at a career-best clip of 22.3 points per game. DeRozan sees a difference in his front court mate, who has been asked to step his game up considerably under Coach Casey.
“Oh yeah, definitely. Whether it’s rebounding or just impacting the ball on the defensive end, he’s definitely big for us. I don’t think people get a chance to see it but he’s definitely been putting in hard work and he’s shown people that he can play on the defensive end.”
Like the rest of the team, DeRozan has been asked to step up his defensive game under Casey. The Raptors were among the worst teams in the league on the defensive end last season, but this year they are ranked second in opponents’ field goal percentage and eighth in points allowed. The early results are great, but DeRozan admits it’s still a process as the team struggles to put wins on the board.
“It all depends on how focused everybody is and how fast it takes for all the guys to buy into it. It could take 5-10 games or it could take 20-30 games. You just have to keep going at it everyday in practice and keep learning and understand what we need to do and I think it’ll come quick.”
So far, Dwane Casey has been a big hit with his new charges, and he’s showing his team that there’s more to basketball than just scoring.
“He’s a great coach, man,” says DeRozan. “He’s definitely been helping everybody out. We’ve all bought into the defensive side of the game. Everybody knew from last year that we could score, but this year he’s set a new goal for us and that’s the defensive end. He’s definitely been drilling in the importance of defense and I think everybody has been feeling comfortable with it.”
Now the Raptors have to figure out how to put great defense and great offense together. This season they are just 26th the league in scoring and 18th in shooting efficiency. DeRozan is at the heart of that with his own offensive struggles. Bargnani has turned up the heat on the offensive end and now he needs his backcourt counterpart to crank things up, as well.
Up Close: Brandon Jenning
The Milwaukee Bucks are off to a rough start, due largely do a rash of injuries. Bucks star Brandon Jennings talks with HOOPSWORLD about the state of the team, the most important missing piece, the impact of Stephen Jackson and more!
Predicting human performance is the single most difficult part of the business behind professional sports. It’s why players like Hasheem Thabeet get taken as a second-overall pick in the NBA draft, and it’s also why a player like Tony Parker falls to the bottom of the first round. Predicting human behavior is simply not an exact science.
The thing about science, though, is that it’s always evolving. Methods get better, more accurate. As depicted in the movie “Moneyball,” the science if predicting human performance is no different.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at University of North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes. Once believed to be a top overall NBA draft pick, Barnes has since dropped a couple of notches in the ranks over at Draft Express, the foremost authority on all things NBA draft. They have him currently ranked third overall, so let’s take a look at some of the reasons why he might be worth a pick that high.
Barnes gets 80% of his offense in half court sets, where he has scored 189 points in 208 possessions. That’s good enough to rank him in the 69th percentile, so he’s well above average as scouts rank him “very good.” He’s even better in transition, scoring 64 points on 51 possessions to rank in the 76th percentile. He’s scored the vast majority (93%) of his points this season against man-to-man defense, and he ranks in the 67th percentile overall in those situations. He’s only had 14 possessions against the zone, so the sample size is small. Still, he’s scored 16 points on those 14 possessions, good for an 82nd percentile ranking.
Compare those numbers to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, currently projected to be the top overall pick in next summer’s draft, and you can see why he’s no longer the top pick. Davis ranks in the 90% percentile or better across the board offensively for a ranking of “excellent.”
A quick look at projected second overall pick Andre Drummond (UCONN) reveals that while Drummond is a significant step below Davis, he is also a step above Barnes. Drummond gets 89% of his offense in the half court, where he is ranked in the 79% percentile. He’s also in the 89th percentile in transition, where he gets 11% of his offense.
Barnes may be a step below those two players, but he is not completely outclassed.
On the defensive end Barnes is still somewhat of a work in progress. He is best when defending spot-up shooters, where he ranks in the 71st percentile, and he’s not bad when defending the ball handler in a pick-and-roll (64th percentile). He’s average in isolation situations (49th percentile) and below average in hand-offs (15th percentile).
What that means is that the team that drafts Barnes will need to understand that he’s not going to be a defensive stopper, and they’ll need to surround him with some good defenders to make up for that weakness. On the offensive end, however, Barnes could very well be an impact player in the NBA, which makes him very worthy of the third overall pick.
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