Contrary to the hype he’s been getting since high school — that only increased after he landed with the Toronto Raptors — DeMar DeRozan won’t become the next Vince Carter.
DeRozan will be better than Vince.
Almost purely on athleticism and potential, DeRozan was a Top-10 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft after leaving USC following his freshman season in order to help his mother, who suffers from Lupus. During his rookie year the 6-7 wing displayed explosiveness and ability to take flight at any given moment while averaging 8.6 points in just over 21 minutes per game. He showed his capabilities of finishing near the rim and showed potential as a good defender, but also displayed poor playmaking skills. Now that Chris Bosh has left Toronto for Miami, and Hedo Turkoglu was traded to the Suns, DeRozan has the chance to become the Raptors new franchise player — similar to Carter after Tracy McGrady left for Orlando.
DeRozan was showing flashes of great potential this offseason during the Vegas Summer League (along with teammate and close friend Sonny Weems), averaging 20.6 points on 60.5 percent shooting from the field in just 23 minutes and leading the Raps to an undefeated record. Sure, it’s just summer league, a place where the great Marco Belinelli once scored 37 in a game, but a player who was selected ninth overall for his athleticism alone is slowly becoming a prospect with more to offer.
But in order for DeRozan to become the new leader of the Raptors, he’s going to have to learn how to become a more complete player instead of relying on his athleticism — the same way Carter did to become a well-rounded player.
The Raptors were dead last in Defensive Efficiency last season (110.2) according to ESPN’s John Hollinger. In giving up that much offense, that means DeRozan is going to have to use his athleticism on the defensive side against opposing teams best players. Especially playing at the two-guard, where he’ll have to defend players like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
But according to DeRozan, he’s already ahead of the game:
“Having a year under my belt playing in the League, knowing what they’re expecting, knowing what I have to do — it just raised my confidence level that much higher,” DeRozan told NBA Fanhouse. “I feel more comfortable. … The game just comes easy. I know what to do now on both ends — the defensive end and the offensive end — so it just made the game easy.”
Another area for improvement is his passing game. He averaged only one assist during the summer league, but also showed improved ball handling skills, which was a problem for him last season. With better ball handling comes better decision-making and playmaking for teammates.
Athleticism doesn’t last forever — just ask Carter — but after missing the playoffs for two straight seasons and now losing their best player, Toronto is going to rely heavily on DeRozan to be able to help when in need; something Carter chose not to do. Just because DeRozan won’t be scoring only on dunks this season doesn’t mean Raptors fans won’t see a couple alley-oops between him and Weems. After all, what’s all work and no play?