DeMar DeRozan: Not Exactly a Project

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DeMar DeRozan: Not Exactly a Project
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I couldn’t help but feel ecstatic about the Raptors selection of DeMar DeRozan on Thursday night.

Not only did it mean that I was correct in my article which projected their draft board, but it also means that the Raptors just drafted an absolute stud who is going to shock the league next season.

You’ve heard that, with DeRozan, you’d have to wait a few years to see him really make an impact on the court.

I respectfully disagree.

DeMar DeRozan is far from a finished product, but he’s ready to make an impact today, and considering Jay Triano’s recent comments about potentially starting him, the Raptors seem to think so as well.

His skills make him a better NBA player than a college player due to his athleticism and ability to impact the game defensively. He’s still got a long way to go before he’s being talked about as a top-tier wing player, but he isn’t as far as some may think.

He has a great mid-range game, crafty foot work and he really developed his skills throughout his first year at USC. Unlike a player like Terrence Williams for example, one could really see the maturation and growth from game to game.

Given his mother’s medical condition, it was almost guaranteed that he would make the jump to the NBA as soon as possible.

However, had he gone back to USC for a second season, I have little doubt he’d be a top-five pick in a pretty loaded 2010 draft. He’s got scary talent, and he has the work ethic and desire to grow into a well-rounded basketball player.

So what can we truly expect from DeMar DeRozan as a rookie? He’ll likely have two seasons in one.

When he breaks in, he’s going to be inconsistent offensively. He might go off for a few nights that make you think he has a chance to be a superstar, and have other nights where he scores five points.

Ultimately, he’ll have to bring a consistent defensive effort to stay on the court through his offensive inconsistencies.  Sometime in December however, I fully expect the light switch to go on.

This is a proud individual who has a serious toughness about him and I don’t expect him to wait till year two to show the league that he’s arrived.

One thing that all great players have is a switch that can be turned on and off. Like a Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter, DeRozan also has a switch that he can turn on, and the God-given talent to be an absolute force on both ends of the court.

It was this switch that earned him PAC-10 MVP honors, and it is this switch that separates him from your average 19-year old who can jump out of the gym.

He certainly has limitations at this point. He’ll be a much better three-point shooter than people expect, and I expect him to be a pretty good one in his second year, but at the moment, this would be an area of weakness. He also has to tighten his handle if he’s going to play as a shooting guard.

The only potential hindrances I can see in his cards at this point would be the players around him. While it is certainly a great thing that Calderon likes to pass, his game isn’t going to help DeRozan, much like it didn’t help Shawn Marion last year.

DeRozan can have a lot of success on isolation situations and by crashing the glass, but with Calderon, he’s going to end up taking a few more long range jumpers than he should.

Chris Bosh’s tunnel vision also doesn’t do much to help DeRozan. Bosh tends to miss a ton of players on cuts, and has a tendency to hold the ball and have his team mates simply stand around and watch him.

Another player who may end up hurting DeRozan is potential-Raptor Carlos Delfino who has never seen a shot he didn’t like.

DeRozan will have a lot of hurdles to cross in his first year, but having a few exceptional passers who take risks in the open court and are actually willing to allow him to create his own offense would certainly ease his transition.

With that said, Roko Ukic could be the wild card, especially if DeRozan ends up coming off the bench to begin the year.

Ukic is a much better play maker than he showed last year, and while he isn’t quite Rubio or Nash, I’ve seen enough of him in Italy and Croatia to say that he’s by far the best passer on this team with Bargnani as a close second.

How quickly DeRozan becomes an impact player for the Raptors is anyone’s guess. He could take a few weeks, a few months, or a few seasons.

However, I’m confident as ever that he will get there, and that when he does, the Raptors will have a blossoming star where they’ve needed one in the worst way since Air Canada packed his bags and flew to New Jersey.

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