Why DeMar DeRozan’s career was saved….For Now
In case you have not heard, the Raptors won their first playoff series since 2001 over Indiana, with a 89-84 to win the series in 7. DeMar DeRozan had 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in the effort; however people are focusing on the ending of that game.
The clutch foul by DeRozan saved the raptors season.
Let me say as an aside that I simply do not care if it was a foul, Indiana was down by 14 at the end of the 3rd quarter and deserved to lose. Regardless the ending of that game -- which pitted Canada vs USA in a heated but friendly debate on social media -- it may have had really serious consequences.
DeMar DeRozan, despite having two 30-point games, was terrible that series. He averaged 17.9 points per game, while shooting a chilly 31.9 % from the field and an absolutely humbling 16.7% from three point land. For DeRozan standards, that is not good. This comes at an inopportune time, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 season. It is no secret that DeRozan would probably like a $20+ million per year kind of deal. However, why would any general manager in the NBA think about doing that when looking at his 2016 playoff stats and realizing how that happened.
DeRozan was essentially locked down by one on one coverage. Who was covering him? Paul George. George is a 6’9, 220 pound small forward. While that is taller than DeRozan, it is not by much, DeRozan listed at 6’7, 220 pounds, he still had a really rough time scoring against George. DeRozan had two games where he failed to score double digits, four games where he failed to score 20+ points, and only shot 45% or over in one game. Even the 30-point Game 7 performance was hilariously inefficient, as DeRozan shot 31.3% from the field.
It's safe to say DeRozan was bad against George, but this was not reciprocal. George nearly singlehandedly won Indiana the series with his play on both ends of the floor. George averaged 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. George torched DeRozan so bad that Dwane Casey elected not to have DeRozan be the primary defender. Instead DeMarre Carroll and 6’4 Norman Powell took those responsibilities.
Before fans point out that Paul George is an elite defender, this is not the first time fans have witnessed DeRozan struggle against length. It has been well documented the struggles DeRozan had against the lanky Otto Potter in the Raptors embarrassing sweep to the Washington Wizards in 2015. In other words, if the key to stopping DeRozan is length, then that is about as anticlimactic as the key to stopping the golden age Green Lantern is wood.
Teams will eventually clue in that DeRozan struggles against lanky small forwards and will continue to send guys like this at him. If DeRozan does not adjust then unfortunately for him, he could lose a lot of money that he was projected to have been making.
With that being said, DeRozan could have simply had a bad series. Indiana was among the NBA's top 10 in opponent’s points per game this season. Players tend to have bad nights against Indiana and that includes superstars. In any case, there is now a clean state.
Due to the Raptors game 7 win over Indiana, DeRozan now has time. DeRozan now has a series worth of time to turn his misfortunates around and make people forget. People are quite forgetful when it comes to sports and that is fact. For example, people like to remember Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in Vancouver to win the gold medal but forget that Crosby’s golden goal was his only goal of the Olympics.
DeRozan could potentially gain or lose a lot of free agency leverage with this series and it will be interesting to see how he will fare against Dwayne Wade and the Heat.