Almost from the moment DeMar DeRozan was drafted ninth overall in 2009, the rookie was a virtual lock to be the Toronto Raptors starting shooting guard.
Weems never really got a chance to play with the Denver Nuggets. That's not really a surprise, as Denver was a fully loaded Western Conference contender that had little time or patience to deal with a rookie—let alone a second-round rookie.
Weems had a total of 55 minutes of NBA court experience when he arrived in Toronto. And he never even saw the floor until Game Five of the 2009-10 season, when Weems played for two minutes against New Orleans.
The differences between Weems and DeRozan can be summed up in one word: age.
DeRozan was a 19-year-old freshman from USC when he was drafted. He was the typical young, high-potential wing player who is a lottery draft pick in the hopes that he develops into a legitimate NBA starter—or better.
Weems was a college senior about to turn 22 years old when drafted. He was the typical good college player who everyone believed may have topped out in his development after four years of college ball.
But as a physical specimen, Weems tested out superior to his younger competition in many areas.
First, Weems is fast. At the NBA draft camp testing, Weems completed the three-quarter court sprint in under three seconds—a full 10 percent faster than DeRozan.
Second, Weems is strong. Weems completed 12 bench press reps, compared with just five for DeRozan.
And Weems is decidedly “longer” than his friend DeRozan. A standing reach of 8′8″ and a wingspan of 6′10″ gives Weems a better than 1″ advantage.
It might be interesting to note that DeRozan, at 6′6.5″ in shoes, measured 1″ taller than Weems. But that isn’t noticeable on the court.
As one of the league’s prized rookies, DeRozan was invited to the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend. And DeRozan can do some amazing things in the air. A good leaper, he has a 29″ standing vertical jump that he can get to a maximum of 38.5″.
But Weems won a college slam dunk competition—and he can get some air of his own. He also has a 29″ standing vertical jump and can get to a maximum of 36.5″. One may have noticed: Weems can dunk.
As the season has worn on, it has become apparent that the on-court offensive production differences between these two players wasn’t like the typical lottery pick versus second-rounder.
When given a chance, Weems could hold his own against the rookie. And Weems' age, quickness, and strength was giving him a decided advantage on the defensive end of the floor.
Quite simply, it has been harder for opposing wings to take advantage of Weems.
As each month of the season has passed and the Raptors coaching staff gained confidence in Weems' abilities, his on-court performances have improved.
|Sonny Weems 2009-10|
|As a starter||11||11||26.4||61.3%||66.7%||71.4%||4.0||1.8||0.6||0.1||10.0|
Weems started five games in March—including the last four games in place of DeRozan at shooting guard. And Weems' production as a starter has been impressive. Who wouldn’t be impressed by 10 points in 26 minutes on 61 percent shooting?
But there is no reason to be giving up on the Raptors rookie, either. There is every reason to believe that by the time DeRozan is 23, his play and statistics will have improved significantly—and his rookie numbers are all right.
|DeMar DeRozan 2009-10|
|As a sub||4||4||21.5||69.6%||0.0%||84.8%||1.8||0.8||0.5||0.2||10.2|
And in DeRozan’s last four games as a substitute off the bench, the rookie has elevated his level of play and has been decidedly more effective.
Jay Triano’s late-season move to promote Weems to the starting lineup and bring the Raptors' prized rookie off the bench looks like the right move—even if some of us were calling for this a month ago.
“DeMar DeRozan looks like the Raptors starting shooting guard of the future; his play does not resemble that of a starting shooting guard of today.”
Source: Time for a Change
Triano has already proven that he can keep the rookie’s minutes the same coming off the bench—and DeRozan looks like he’s enjoying the opportunity to play against backups.
If the Raptors hold onto both of their young prospects through the coming offseason, the battle between them to start is far from over. And it’s the team that will be the ultimate winner of that contest.
But for the rest of this season, it’s Weems' turn to take on the burden of guarding some of the NBA’s best talent while continuing to be effective at the offensive end of the court.
And DeRozan can continue his development against slightly less-skilled second-string wing players coming off the bench.
It’s all good!