With a full season under his belt in San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan is primed and ready to continue to shine in Gregg Popovich’s system.
Lost amidst a summer full of speculation regarding whether or not the four-time All-Star should be given a max contract is one fact: DeMar DeRozan had a career year in his first season with the San Antonio Spurs. While his debut season didn’t result in a successful playoff run, there are plenty of things to look forward to in terms of what the 30-year-old shooting guard will bring to the table this season.
Let’s take a look at what to expect and what to hope for from DeMar DeRozan as the 2019-20 season approaches.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 16, 2019
In his 10th season in the NBA, DeMar averaged a career-high in assists per game as the starting shooting guard for the Spurs. His 6.2 assists per game led the team by a wide margin (second was Derrick White at 3.9 APG) and was good for third in the league amongst shooting guards behind Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker.
Passing has always been an underrated part of DeRozan’s game. In fact, after a regular-season meeting with the Detroit Pistons in which DeMar had nine assists, DeRozan’s ex-coach Dwane Casey told the San Antonio Express-News that DeMar was the Raptors’ best passer, even above All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry.
Much of DeMar’s game this season will hinge on the play of breakout star Derrick White and returning point guard Dejounte Murray. With the addition of another ball-handler on the floor in Murray, as well as White getting more minutes, I would expect a slight dip in assists for DeRozan. That said, the Spurs are often inclined to play through LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar for stretches, as they are the most adept at creating their own shots. A dip in assists would be more than welcome as long as it helps San Antonio keep their offensive efficiency among the league’s best.
After Derrick White’s breakout series last year in which he was getting to the basket often as well as knocking down threes, the attention he will get from defenses should give DeRozan more room to operate. Giving a player with a high basketball IQ such as DeMar more space can only be a good thing, as he has the ability to find the open man or take the ball to the basket himself.
Next: Defensive commitment
Committing more on the defensive end
Anyone familiar with the culture of the Spurs knows by now that if you don’t play defense, you don’t play many minutes under Gregg Popovich. DeMar DeRozan has never been known as a defensive stopper in his career, however, his first season with the silver and black may have been his best defensive effort to date.
DeMar recorded a career-high in blocks last season (36) as well as tied a career-high in steals (86) last season. As Air Alamo’s own Dylan Carter pointed out over the summer, DeRozan also posted a career-high in deflections. While these numbers don’t exactly label him as a defensive juggernaut, it shows he’s more than capable of focusing on the defensive end more than he ever has before.
Another way the Compton-native made his presence known at the defensive end last season was his rebounding. DeRozan’s 5.3 defensive rebounds per game was the third-best on the team and second-best among all shooting guards, behind only Luka Dončić.
Limiting chances is an extremely important part of the game and DeMar is a major reason the Spurs were in the top five last season in limiting opponents’ offensive rebounds per game.
In terms of what to expect defensively this season, again the emergence of Derrick White and the return of Dejounte Murray should work wonders for DeRozan. The young backcourt is more than capable of holding their own, which will give DeMar more opportunities to focus on his man and occasionally take gambles to force turnovers.
Gregg Popovich has a history of making offensive-minded players become above-average defenders. I expect DeMar will take another step towards becoming a better defender this season.
Next: Issues to address
Probably the most talked-about aspect of DeRozan’s game from critics and fans alike is his lack of outside shooting. DeMar simply does not shoot threes in-game very often. Given his exceptional mid-range and one-on-one game, it’s hard to fault DeRozan for wanting to do what he does best. Still, most Spurs fans are dying to see No. 10 let it fly from long range this season.
DeRozan’s game is heavily based on driving to the bucket and nothing opens up the lane like keeping the defense honest with the occasional trifecta. While no one is expecting him to shoot like Klay Thompson, even just attempting more three-pointers per game should make the Spurs’ offense that much more dangerous.
Unlike many, I personally feel that DeMar can do enough on the court to make a huge impact even if he doesn’t expand his game to the three-point line. His game already spaces the floor for everyone else, and as long as he continues to shoot at a high percentage like he did last season (48%) and distribute the ball, San Antonio’s offense should be just fine. That said, I’m with the majority of Spurs fans that hope to see him shoot more from downtown this season.
Getting to the free-throw line
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Besides his rookie season, DeMar has always shot free throws at a rate above 80 percent. Last season with San Antonio, he shot 83 percent on an average of 5.7 attempts per game. While this led the team, there is still room to increase this number given how often DeRozan takes the ball to the basket.
In Toronto, DeRozan had four seasons in which he shot over 550 free throws, but he only took 441 from the charity stripe this season with the Spurs. As he continues to adapt to the Spurs’ offense and improve his game, it would be a surprise if DeMar’s free throw numbers don’t increase this season. Given that he shoots them well, that should spell good things for the silver and black.
All in all, DeMar DeRozan has already proven he is a good fit in San Antonio. Despite some offseason rumors, Mike Finger of the Express-News stated recently that all indications are that Coach Popovich is perfectly content with keeping him on the squad and that the possibility of a max extension is not out of the question before the start of the season.
Given that his time as a Spur has just begun, expect DeMar to continue expanding his game this season as San Antonio tries to keep its playoff streak alive.