By Ryan McNeill
While doing some research for Toronto’s game against Houston I uncovered a stat which caught me off guard: DeMar DeRozan has had 156 touches on offense so far this season yet only five of those touches have resulted in him cutting to the rim.
For a player who came into the NBA being heralded as one of the top athletes in his draft class and a high flyer the fact he isn’t cutting to the rim more often is surprising.
Before the game I was able to chat with Jay Triano about this and he told me DeRozan just needs to be more aggressive commanding the ball from his teammates.
“He’s got to move without the ball and use screens well,” Triano explained to Hoops Addict. “A lot of our sets go through the post and Andrea Bargnani so his numbers will be down in our halfcourt sets because of that. We just need to have our point guards give it up and create more movement.”
Watching the game unfold it felt as if DeRozan was told of this conversation because early in the game he attacked the rim on a great cut to the basket which resulted in a dunk that got the crowd on their feet.
He then followed that up with a cut to the rim on an inbounds play and Andrea Bargnani found him for a nice layin.
This attack mentality continued throughout the game as the four field goals he made came when he was driving to the rim and he also got 12 free throws (all of which were when he was attacking or cutting to the rim).
“Easy layups weren’t falling for me in the first half but I just tried to continue to be aggressive and get to the free throw line,” DeRozan admitted to Hoops Addict after the game.
Granted, the 4-13 he shot from the field will make some fans shudder, he did a great job of earning 12 free throws in the second half. In the first half the entire team failed to attempt a free throw and his aggressive play in the second half was a big reason why the team rallied to earn 30 trips to the charity stripe.
Still, even though he was able to draw some fouls, he needs to learn how to finish plays.
“He’s got to learn how to finish plays,” Triano told Hoops Addict after the game. “I think in the third quarter he missed a couple shots and that’s what allowed Houston to get back in the game, but he’s a guy who is going to learn and the only way to learn is to have to go through this.”
Growing pains are to be expected, but there also has to be a point in which DeRozan realizes if his shot isn’t falling he needs to find other ways to contribute.
That may mean attacking the rim by cutting to the basket or just tiring out the other player responsible for guarding him.
“This team had their hands in the pot a lot and I thought he did a good job of getting to the rim,” Triano told Hoops Addict after the win. “We knew we had an advantage and that we were going to make Kevin Martin work on the defensive end as well because we were hoping he would be tired down the stretch. Sure enough, he missed a look down the stretch. Is that because we made him play defense on the other end? I don’t know, but it was part of the strategy we had.”
Did Martin tire himself out by leading his team in field goal attempts or by having to guard DeRozan? That’s a debate I’m not going to touch, but what I will say is it’s been nice to see some steady growth from DeRozan over the past few weeks. Even when his jumper isn’t falling he has learned to find other ways to help his team secure some much-needed wins.
The key going forward will be if DeRozan can continue to justify leading the team in minutes played when he’s only attempting a handful of field goals. The reality of the situation is even though he’s become the face of the franchise there’s no way he should be playing more than 30 minutes if he’s not being aggressive or attempting less than five field goals like he did in games against Philadelphia and Charlotte.
Simply put, that kind of contribution from a “shooting” guard just won’t cut it in the NBA.
If the second year player wants to continue to earn those minutes it’s clear he’ll do so by attacking the rim and aggressively cutting to the basket when his jumper isn’t falling.