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San Antonio Spurs: Three areas of improvement for DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
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DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)

He’s had two of his best years with the San Antonio Spurs but there is still room for improvement for star wing, DeMar DeRozan 

As San Antonio Spurs fans and the general public enjoy ‘The Last Dance’ documentary miniseries of the Chicago Bulls 90’s dynasty we have behind the scenes access to what set Michael Jordan apart and why he widely considered him the greatest basketball player of all time.

Despite the many interesting subplots that were previously unheard of, like Rodman’s mid-season 48-hour Vegas trip, what we don’t see are the hours of work players put into refining their craft during the offseason. In a competitive league, all players must either work on their game or lose their positioning or position on their team or the league.

Every player has room for improvement, the greats are constantly adding new facets to their games. Since entering the league DeMar DeRozan has consistently improved and exceeded draft expectations. Through the years he’s put time and dedication to his game and has developed one of the most reliable mid-range jumpers in the league, vastly improved his handle, and since joining the Spurs, has posted career-best averages in rebounding and assists.

With a player option decision this coming offseason nobody knows how much longer DeMar will wear #10 for Los Spurs  – the scenarios recently discussed by our Dylan Carter. However many more years DeMar wears the silver and black is unknown. What we do know is that even as the best player on the team he still has room for improvement. Many fans are quick to point to the lack of a three-point shot (or even attempts) and his lackluster defense.

DeMar is a great player and from all appearances a great guy.  His courage to openly talk about depression is commendable and has helped many youth and other athletes discuss a taboo subject.

Spurs fans want to see the best version of DeRozan, akin to the dominance seen in the 2009 Pac 12 conference tournament where DeMar led USC it’s first (and only) Pac 12 title and resulted in his number being retired after only one year with the Trojans.

Here are three things DeMar can work on to greatly improve his All-Star caliber game and help unleash the best Silver & Black version of himself.

Next: Block out the noise

SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 29: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts after not having a foul called on his drive to the basket against the Orlando Magic (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 29: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts after not having a foul called on his drive to the basket against the Orlando Magic (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Block out the noise

This applies to several factors: the critics, trash talk of opposing players/fans, and NBA referees.

Being a professional athlete comes with many privileges and much criticism.  The only folks DeMar should be listening to are those dearest to him and his coaches, certainly not any uncles named Dennis.  Anyone else he should pay no attention to.  Demar has openly talked about how influential Kobe Bryant was to him and we indeed see much of Kobe’s game in DeMar’s.  But the one thing he should replicate most is Kobe’s “don’t give a damn” mentality. Block out the noise.

DeMar has opened up about his upbringing and shared THE SOUNDTRACK OF DEMAR DEROZAN’S LIFE in an article by Jonathan Abrams with Bleacher Report.  They are great songs that help tell DeMar’s story.  If we could recommend one song it would be Lose Yourself by Eminem.  If DeMar can block out the noise and play with an edge his game would be better because of it.

In addition to blocking out detractors, DeMar seemingly has problems staying focused at times. He is not known as a hothead, yet you might be surprised to learn that DeMar has been amongst league leaders in technical fouls the last three years.

As the best player on the team, DeMar needs to learn how to approach each ref and what he can/can’t get away with each particular NBA crew. Despite the occasional bad call, DeMar needs to internalize and not let bad calls throw him off his game.  Especially in the playoffs, as we saw last year against Denver.

Next: Defensive Intensity

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JANUARY 04: Wesley Matthews #9 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots over DeMar DeRozan (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JANUARY 04: Wesley Matthews #9 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots over DeMar DeRozan (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Step up on defense

DeMar is a great basketball player who can score buckets with ease.  What he is not known for and what many Spurs fans lament is DeMar’s effort and performance on the defensive end. Thankfully the current roster has several players like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White who play elite defense and can cover for the deficiencies of others at times.  Despite not having to be a lockdown defender DeMar needs to work on his intensity on the defensive end of the floor.

To be clear, DeMar has the necessary tools (size, athleticism, and quickness) to be an above-average and even great defensive player.  DeRozan has the height ( 6’6″) wingspan ( 6’9″) and vertical jump (38.5″)  that equip him with the tools to disrupt passing lanes and stay in front of his opponent.

And he’s rarely going to guard the other team’s best player, that task would likely fall to one of White or Murray. This is in contrast to Bryn Forbes who is undersized and overpowered yet shows more effort and tenacity than what we see from DeMar.

For a coach who has always gotten the best efforts out of his players, both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor, one can imagine Coach Pop’s frustrations when seeing DeMar has lapsed on defense from simply a lack of effort.  It is reasonable to assume that this has been a discussion topic between Coach Pop and DeMar.

As the best player on the team, DeMar DeRozan NEEDS to bring defensive intensity on a nightly basis and help set the tone for the team.

Next: Crunch Time Offense

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 19: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic during the game at Amway Center (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 19: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic during the game at Amway Center (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Crunch time offense

The often heard clamor amongst Spurs fans is that DeMar needs to shoot the long ball more often. And while DeMar does need to shoot the ball if he is open behind the arc and yes, he should work on taking shots a couple of feet further behind his comfort zone, what is more pressing is for him to unleash his offensive skills when the game is on the line.

It is worth repeating: DeMar DeRozan is already an elite offensive player, the type of player you want to put the ball in their hands when your team needs a bucket. His numbers in crunch time are solid but not spectacular.

It’s surprising to see the low free throw attempts by DeRozan in closing situations.  Driving to the basket and making a greater effort to catch defenders in the air is something he can glean from Jimmy Butler or James Harden (although we don’t need the theatrics of the latter).  And even though he was attacking the rim more than ever this year we didn’t see a dramatic jump in his overall free-throw numbers.

https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/10/26/0021900033/264/f89c0db6-246f-4a3d-155e-31104b15fa2c_1280x720.mp4

By making it a point of consistently driving to the basket DeMar can improve the Spurs chances in three ways: His offensive talents will help draw the opposing teams help defender which will free up an open man, he will get an open layup or forceful dunk, or he will get to the free-throw line which will lead to easy buckets.

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DeMar has the ability to attack the basket and there are countless highlight reels to prove it. But when it matters most he has a tendency to revert to the mid-range where he is more comfortable. What Spurs fans would love to see is that same relentlessness in attacking the basket when the game is on the line.

As we wait for the NBA season to resume we will continue to ponder how much longer Demar DeRozan will lead the roster.  Some fans are ready to embrace a full rebuild after a great run.  They argue DeMar’s presence stunts the growth of our youngsters.

Oh how quickly we forget that the greatest player in franchise history, Tim Duncan, was a center in college.  In 1997 with Robinson entrenched as the team’s center, the Spurs adjusted and Duncan became the greatest power forward of all time.

There is hope that the Spurs young players and DeMar DeRozan can coexist and grow together, but DeMar needs to improve in these three areas in order to convince Spurs fans that that’s possible.

Next. San Antonio Spurs and characters of the Star Wars universe

Let’s hope DeMar can force those fans to reconsider by returning and unleashing the best Silver & Black version of Demar DeRozan we’ve ever seen.

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