On a Wednesday night, Toronto Raptors fans got a glimpse of the potential of their team’s newest rookie. Playing against the NBA’s current third best rebounding team, the Chicago Bulls, DeMar DeRozan hauled in an impressive nine boards in just 19 minutes.
When the Raptors drafted the one year college player from USC, they were drafting potential. The 6′6.5″ 220 lb freshman was just turning 20 years old and didn’t have the head turning college statistics one might have expected from a NBA lottery pick.
In his one season at USC, DeMar averaged 13.9 points, shot 52.3 percent, and collected 5.7 boards, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks. Decent production but perhaps what impressed some of the scouts was the 19.8 point per game average in USC’s five post-season games.
But comments about DeRozan have largely revolved around how long and athletic he is.
If one looks up DeRozan’s NBA pre-draft camp measurements, they place him squarely in the middle between the average shooting guard and average small forward coming into the league.
For an NBA wing player, DeRozan’s height and weight are typical. His 6’9” wingspan and 8’6.5” standing reach are also average.
But what has been most talked about is DeRozan’s great leaping ability. Some comments suggesting that this is evidenced because he can get his head up to the level of the rim.
At pre-draft camp DeRozan’s no step vertical jump was decidedly average at 29”. He did have a maximum vertical jump of 38.5”, which is a couple of inches higher than average but the best leapers in the 2009 draft were at 40″. For comparison, Vince Carter had a standing vertical of 36″ and a maximum vertical of 43″.
For interest, DeRozan’s measured maximum vertical would place his head about three inches below the rim when he flies in for a dunk and that looks to be about right from watching him play.
But as anyone who has followed college players into the professional game realizes, it isn’t just about the natural athletic gifts a player was born with. Lots of players have come into the league with the ability to play above the rim and just as quickly disappeared. It is all about, can the player use those natural gifts effectively!
DeRozan had been criticized for his slow start in college. It appeared he was holding back and attempting to a get a feel for the faster pace and better players in the college game. But by the end of that one season, he was a team leader.
At the start of DeRozan’s NBA career, Toronto Raptors’ head coach Jay Triano has held back his young rookie. While DeRozan has started all eight games thus far, he is only averaging 18.4 minutes of playing time.
And it isn’t because he is playing poorly. In those 18 minutes, DeRozan has averaged 5.3 points, 3.6 boards, 1.1 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.0 block. He has also shot the ball well averaging 46 percent from the field.
Not surprisingly, DeRozan has played more minutes and has more production at home where he is averaging seven points and five rebounds. But the assists, steals, and blocks have been the same at home and on the road.
Very surprising has been DeRozan’s ability to get blocks at the NBA level. He has a block in every game this season except one and is tied with Bosh and Bargnani for the team lead with eight blocks on the young season.
The additions of DeRozan and Turkoglu have helped the Raptors average 5.25 blocks per game this season, eleventh best in the NBA.
DeRozan’s first modest break-out NBA game occurred against one of the better defensive teams in the NBA at this early point in the season.
The Chicago Bulls are ninth in points allowed at 92.9 (after giving up 99 to Toronto), third in rebounding with 44.75, and fourth in blocks at 6.75. A noted good defensive team this season.
In DeRozan’s 19 minutes against Chicago, he shot 4-10, including 1-1 from three for a season high nine points. He collected a season high nine rebounds and he had a season high two blocks. Easily DeRozan’s most impressive game as a Raptor.
DeRozan blocked an early John Salmons jump shot. After which Salmons never really got on track offensively ending up going 1-11.
In the third quarter, DeRozan blocked the bigger and stronger Luol Deng’s turnaround hook shot, followed by a defensive rebound, then the highlight reel dunk in transition. All of which helped spark the Raptors offensively and start the Bulls offensive second half collapse.
Rebounding and defense has been a Raptors weakness at the guard and wing, DeRozan’s early success at this is very encouraging. The highlight reel dunk may excite the crowd, but it was the rebounding and defense that excited Jay Triano.
Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan may not have the hops or offensive skills of a Vince Carter. But, if he can continue to develop his defense and rebounding, DeMar DeRozan may be exactly the player the Raptors need to bring this team to the next level.
It's still very early in the season and in DeMar’s NBA career, but it looks like the young rookie does have the ability to use those natural gifts he has brought with him to the NBA.
So why not get a little excited by some early signs of potential greatness?
For more on the Raptors' rookie check out, DeMar DeRozan, The Next VC?