Title: Ranking DeMar DeRozan’s season in the context of Raptors franchise history
Date: April 6, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about DeMar DeRozan’s career year and how it stands up against some of the best seasons in Raptors history.
The return of Kyle Lowry on Wednesday does many great things for the Toronto Raptors. It starts the clock on answering important questions like what the team’s playoff rotation will look like, whether Lowry will be subject to a post-surgery shooting slump, how good they’ll look with a star inserted into a high-octane defense and a somehow-surviving offense, and, more generally, what the Raptors-In-Theory will be in practice.
Lowry’s return also stands to take a heavy load off of the shoulders of DeMar DeRozan. Himself an all-star and an equally important part of the system the Raptors have built, particularly on offence, DeRozan’s mastery during Lowry’s absence was at the top of the list of explanations for how the team managed to go 14-7 without arguably their best player.
Continuing a progression that has startled skeptics annually, DeRozan’s matured into an even more dangerous and versatile scorer amid extra attention, and he’s expertly navigated that additional attention to become a terrific playmaker. In the games Lowry missed, DeRozan averaged 27.1 points on 56.4-percent true shooting and chipped in 5.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and far more defensive attention and aggression than has been his custom.
He was unquestionably the team’s best player during that quarter-season, and he was able to turn a long-standing trend on its head – the Raptors outscored opponents without Lowry. For years, the team has succeeded with Lowry, with or without DeRozan, and crumbled when Lowry hit the bench. During that 21-game stretch, the Raptors outscored opponents by 4.6 points per-100 possessions, with that mark nudging to plus-4.9 with DeRozan on the floor. (To give an idea of how important Lowry was before the injury: The team has still been outscored with him on the bench for the season, even after that run.)
This was not the lone exceptional stretch of the season for DeRozan, either. One of only two four-time Players of the Week in the Eastern Conference along with LeBron James this year, DeRozan also started the season a house afire, averaging 33 points on 60-percent true-shooting over the season’s first 12 games.