When the headlines and the noise quietened, and the disappointment subsided, it was just the hardwood and DeMar DeRozan.
The 10-year veteran has entered a new chapter of his basketball career with the San Antonio Spurs and has done so in stunning fashion. In the first nine games, he’s registered 27.3 points per game – the eighth-best mark in the NBA – on 51.6-percent shooting from field-goal range to add to his team-leading 6.7 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
DeRozan has become a blessing, especially considering how the Spurs roster has been thinning out with the departure of Tony Parker, trades of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, retirement of Manu Ginobili and long-term injury of Dejounte Murray.
One of the reasons why DeRozan has found early success in San Antonio’s offense is because so much of what they do caters to DeRozan’s skills. The Spurs offense is predicated on getting into the paint and exploding at the rim. This is perfect for DeRozan as he has a lethal midrange pull-up shot and the ability to slither into the lane and contort his body to make tough shots at the rim.
One aspect of his game that appears to have elevated is his strong playmaking skills. He’s developed a strong chemistry with LaMarcus Aldridge and alongside Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills, has become part of a dynamic backcourt.
In late October, he posted a career-high 14 assists in a 143-142 OT win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Five days later, he posted his second double-double of the season when he notched 30 points and 12 rebounds with a cool eight assists.
However, DeRozan still needs to make some adjustments on the defensive end. He’s made some significant strides to become an active on-ball defender and currently averages 1.2 steals per game.
However, it seems that he needs to learn how to be a more effective defender off the ball. Too often, he’ll just be standing and watching the ball instead of covering an open player or looking to disrupt a play. This is where Gregg Popovich can step in and guide DeRozan so that he evolves into a competent defender. And the 28-year-old has expressed a strong willingness to learn from the future Hall of Fame coach.
“He’s a quick study,” Popovich told ESPN reporters. “He picked things up really quickly, and he’s a confident player. The game comes easy to him. He’s in a difficult situation because he’s still trying to learn the system and learn about his teammates, but he’s such a willing passer and he plays hard.”
All statistics sourced on November 6 and provided by NBA.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise stated.
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