Toronto has compiled a 10-3 record without Rudy Gay, who was traded to the Sacramento Kings in December. The play of DeMar DeRozan has been a huge reason why, but does the 24-year-old shooting guard deserve a spot in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game?
The Case for Him
Most importantly, DeRozan is the leading scorer on the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference and the best team in the Atlantic Division (not saying much with the latter, but still).
His 20.9 points-per-game average is a career high, along with his 30.7 percent shooting from long range, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.
The youngster has upped his game nearly across the board by grabbing more rebounds, dishing out more assists and making a bigger impact on the defensive end of the court.
His assist totals before and after the Gay trade are staggering:
In addition to playing more unselfishly, he's scored 30 or more points in a game four separate times. That number of 30-point performances ties him with John Wall and puts him well ahead of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (who has notched 30 points just once this season).
With Gay out of the picture in Toronto, DeRozan has scored at least 20 points in seven of the Raptors’ 13 games.
The scoring output from the USC product has helped guide this team offensively, but his defense has been even more impressive.
In Toronto’s 16 wins this season, DeRozan has posted a defensive rating of 92 points per 100 possessions, according to stats.NBA.com. By comparison, Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George has recorded a defensive rating of 87.3 in Indy’s wins.
DeRozan’s overall defensive rating of 99.8 isn’t as impressive as George’s defensive rating of 92.8, but DeRozan doesn’t have the elite defensive supporting cast that surrounds George in Indiana.
In addition to his defensive rating, DeRozan is holding opponents to a production rating of 13.3, according to 82games.com. His own production rating is 17.8, which leads to a net of plus-4.4.
While the Eastern Conference has been dreadful this season, it should still count for something that DeRozan’s Raptors have pieced together a better overall record than the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.
All-Star selections should be based on individual performance, but contributing to a winning product is also an important factor.
The Case Against Him
While DeRozan has been pouring in more than 20 points per game on average, his offensive efficiency has been admittedly lackluster.
The Raptors guard is shooting just 41.8 percent from the field overall, which is a career low.
Of course, Kyrie Irving—who is second only to Dwyane Wade in Eastern Conference backcourt voting—is shooting a career-low 42.8 percent from the field and a career-low 35.4 percent from three-point range. He’s had a better season than DeRozan from a statistical standpoint, but his team sits out of the playoff picture with an 11-21 record.
The biggest hole in DeRozan’s game, however, has been clutch shooting.
In his fifth season as a pro, he's shooting just 33.3 percent from the field in the last five minutes of games when the Raptors trail by five points or fewer, according to stats.NBA.com. The Raptors have a 2-10 record in such scenarios.
Toronto’s inability to execute in crunch time has ensured quite a few losses, and DeRozan hasn’t helped that cause.
The good news is that he is still just 24 years old, so he has time to develop a killer instinct in the clutch.
While DeRozan’s game certainly has strengths and weaknesses, his play (and his team’s performance) has provided a case for an All-Star selection.
Since Gay was moved to Sacramento, Toronto has thrived via addition by subtraction. DeRozan has embraced a bigger role sans Gay and is playing great team basketball.
Also, his 20.9 points-per-game average is leading the Raptors and ranks him 14th in the league. He’s one of just 17 players scoring 20 per contest.
Aside from Wade, Irving and Wall, finding All-Stars in the Eastern Conference backcourt is a crapshoot.
Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo are both injured, Deron Williams is averaging 13.3 points (lowest since his rookie year) with a putrid Nets team, and while Lance Stephenson is having a phenomenal year for the Pacers, he’s been the beneficiary of playing beside elite talents.
Ultimately, DeRozan’s poor shooting efficiency (both overall and in the clutch) may doom his All-Star chances. However, he should at least be considered for the honor based on his scoring output, defensive capabilities and team success.
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