In a conversation with sharpshooter J. J. Redick, San Antonio Spurs star DeMar DeRozan went into detail about why he limits his 3-point attempts.
In an NBA landscape that’s increasingly shifting to the longball, the San Antonio Spurs seem to be one of the few holdouts left. One of the biggest reasons for that is the playing style of their two stars, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
While Gregg Popovich has been against the 3-point revolution for some time, the Spurs have been slowly increasing their attempts in recent years, but still were 28th in attempts this season at 28.5 per game. Naturally, the question often arises regarding why the Spurs’ offense doesn’t lean more heavily on the trifecta, and DeRozan recently gave some insight as to why that is the case.
In an appearance on J.J. Redick‘s podcast, The Old Man & the Three, the Pelicans guard searched for answers.
“My first year in Philly, we’re playing you guys, and all of a sudden you start shooting threes,” said Redick. “You hit six threes that game, ended up 6-for-9 from three, 45 points. In that season, you averaged 3.6 attempts per game. Since you got to San Antonio, you’re at half a three a game. Why have you never pursued that?”
DeMar DeRozan then recounted a story about the 2016 NBA season, a time in which he says everyone started to shoot threes more frequently.
“Somebody told me [I’m] not going to last long if I don’t start shooting threes,” said DeRozan. “Going into 2016, I said no, you can’t tell me I have to shoot threes to be a good player. That year, I proved a point. It was just me being stubborn. The next year comes, everybody kept saying I can’t shoot threes. That whole season, I was like, I’m going to show you I can shoot threes. Stop saying I can’t shoot them just because I don’t.”
The data certainly backs up how DeRozan’s mindset changed for the 2017-18 season in Toronto, as he shot a career-high 3.6 attempts per game from downtown. That was nearly a full attempt higher on average than his previous high of 2.7 in 2013-14. Still, his points per game dropped from 27.3 to 23.0 that year.
Why DeMar doesn’t feel the need to shoot threes in San Antonio
Forwarding to his last two years with the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan explained how his 3-point shot hasn’t felt necessary in their system. Recalling from his first year in the Alamo City, DeMar talked about what sealed the deal for him opting to be more of a playmaker.
“My first year in San Antonio, I played with [Davis] Bertans. One of the best shooters I’ve played with in my career,” said DeRozan. “I remember preseason, he came to me and said ‘I’ve never gotten this many open threes.’ I had Bryn Forbes telling me the same thing. I felt different getting my shooters shots.”
DeMar’s assists back up his self-diagnosed addiction to setting up his teammates. The past two seasons in San Antonio have been the best passing years of his career in assists per game, with 6.2 in 2018-19 and 5.6 this year.
DeRozan’s tendency to drive and search for the right play instead of settling for threes has been the main thing that’s fueled the Spurs’ offense since he arrived in San Antonio.
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While the Spurs narrowly missed out on the playoffs for the first time in over two decades, it’s hard to assign much of the blame to DeMar’s lack of outside shooting, but he’ll likely continue to be asked about it for the rest of his career.
When assured by Redick that he’d probably average close to 30 points per game if he shoots six-to-eight threes every night, DeRozan turned to history to answer why that’s not his style.
“If you look at the top 50 greatest players of all time, how many of them had to shoot 6 to 8 threes per game?” asked DeMar. “When I know I can get to my spot and nobody can stop me doing this, I become comfortable. It’s just my own approach to the game.”
Going into next season, DeMar will likely continue to improve his all-around game and role as a facilitator and creator. If the occasional 3-pointer is open, he’s likely to take it, but don’t expect him to look for that as a go-to option.
“I don’t have anything against it,” said DeRozan. “I’m not rebelling toward it. Stop me from getting to the rim. Then I’ll take a couple here and there.”