In order to defeat the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, November 12, the New York Knicks must contain All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
The New York Knicks have an opportunity to make an early statement. Following a 110-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks are taking the road to play the two teams that are favored to win the Atlantic Division: the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.
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In order to win the second leg of the back-to-back, the Knicks must contain All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan has been one of the more respected shooting guards in the NBA for the better part of his career. His tendency to shoot long 2s instead of 3-point field goals has frustrated the masses, but he’s a throwback to the scoring guards of yesteryear.
Through seven appearances in 2016-17, DeRozan has gone a long way towards silencing his critics.
DeMar DeRozan became the 3rd player in the last 35 years with 6 30+ point games in first 7 games of a season. pic.twitter.com/7K3RJB5VAv
That’s nothing short to a historic start to the season.
DeRozan is currently averaging 34.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals in 37.4 minutes per game. He’s leading the league in scoring and shooting the lights out at 53.3 from the field and 81.4 percent from the free throw line.
Toronto has found depth, which is reason enough to be wary of the Raptors at home, but it’s DeRozan whose dominance the Knicks must prevent.
DeRozan scored 40 points on 17-of-27 shooting against the Detroit Pistons and 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting against the Washington Wizards. He dropped 37 points on 13-of-22 shooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
DeRozan also posted 34 points against the Miami Heat, 33 on the Denver Nuggets, and 32 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the keys to DeRozan’s success has been his ability to drive the lane and get to the rim. Whether he’s finishing or drawing a foul, he’s been able to create penetration at virtual will during the 2016-17 campaign.
Preventing him from driving is too tall of a task for any defense, which is why the defining factor for the Knicks will avoiding foul trouble.
DeRozan is averaging 10.0 free throw attempts per game, which is tied with James Harden for No. 4 in the NBA. The Knicks are sending opponents to the free throw line 26.0 times per game—more than all but 23 teams.
If New York can somehow refrain from fouling DeRozan, then it may be possible to limit him offensively and prevent Jonas Valanciunas from dominating a backup.
DeRozan seems to have learned how to overcome the absence of foul calls, but he still gains confidence when he heads to the line. Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis are borderline great rim protectors who know how to contest shots without fouling.
Unfortunately, they’ve done a poor job of contesting shots without fouling in 2016-17.
Keeping DeRozan off of the foul line will help the Knicks avoid becoming his next 40-point victim. 30 would still be in reach, but it’s then that Courtney Lee, Justin Holiday and the wings would be tasked with keeping close when he gets into his midrange sweet spots.
In just seven games, DeRozan has already made 44 midrange jump shots on 51.8 percent shooting.
For perspective, Toronto is 5-1 when DeRozan scores at least 30 points and 0-1 when he fails to. The one loss was by three points to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, when DeRozan scored 32 points—his second-fewest points this season.
The only time DeRozan scored less than 32 was when he had 23 points in Toronto’s only other loss.