Toronto Raptors: Is DeMar DeRozan Overrated?

DeMar DeRozan is the highest-paid player on the conference finalist Toronto Raptors team. But is he actually quite overrated?

One of the NBA teams who did not make a ton of movement this summer was the Toronto Raptors.

It was hard for them to do so, as they have a core group of players that they are committed to. They are also coming off the back of a conference finals appearance last season.

Losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final four was the best this franchise has ever done, and there’s plenty of reason to feel optimistic about this team.

They’re one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, although the fact they can’t add much more to this team in terms of star players without losing somebody is concerning.

One player who is key to their success moving forward is shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Perceived as one of the top five players in the league at his position, DeRozan got paid this summer.

May 27, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) looks to play a ball as Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) tries to defend during the third quarter in game six of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 113-87. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, he signed the second-largest contract of all time, inking a five-year deal worth just more than $139 million. That’s a lot of money and the onus is on DeRozan to take his game, and the Raptors, to the next level.

It’s clear there’s more money in the league than ever before, but have we overestimated just how good DeRozan is and can be in future?

He’s 27 years old (worth noting, he’s 19 days older than James Harden) but still shows some of the same inefficiencies in his game that we’ve always seen in him.

If he’s the best player on your team (and in fact he may not even be with Kyle Lowry alongside him) can you get to the top of the mountain? Most people would say no, so why then is he being paid as such?

DeRozan is a two-time All-Star, and is capable of dazzling with his outrageous dunking ability. But he’s also a career 28.3 percent three point shooter. Is that the kind of number you want to see in today’s NBA?

For comparison, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns shot 34 percent from long range in his rookie year. Bradley Beal, a guy who has struggled to stay healthy and who himself signed a big deal this summer, is a career 39 percent three-point shooter.

Even Chris Bosh during his time with the Raptors posted a higher average from beyond the arc (29.8 percent).

At the time Bosh was still more of a traditional big man and three-point fever hadn’t taken over the league yet. What does that tell you about how poor DeRozan has been from that area?

You can argue that this number doesn’t really matter, that DeRozan does his best work around the hoop anyway (he ranked in the top five in getting to the free-throw line last year).

But even Victor Oladipo, a guy whose long-range shooting has been criticized often, has a better career percentage than DeRozan (33.9 percent). So that’s a problem, especially when you’re being paid to be the top dog on your team.

DeRozan took 17.7 shots per game last year, right in line with his career high of 2013-14 (DeRozan was an All-Star in both seasons). Star players get the ball often and his 23.5 points per game was a career high.

But Klay Thompson took nearly as many efforts each night (17.3), scoring 22.1 points per game. He was able to knock down 42.5 percent of his three point efforts howeve, and he also posted an effective field goal percentage of 56.9 percent.

For comparison, DeRozan was taking far more shots from within the three-point line (1.8 to Thompson’s crazy 8.1 three-point attempts), but also posted an effective field goal percentage of 46.3 percent.

Thompson is one of the best long-range shooters of all time, but he’s not getting paid like DeRozan is. Looking at their numbers and how they scored their points, I know who I’d rather have on my team.

Even Harden, who attempted two more shots per night than DeRozan and a crazy eight three-point efforts each game (by far a career high) posted a better effective field goal percentage (51.2).

DeRozan is not a bad player, but his game most closely reflects that of Kobe Bryant. As iconic as the Black Mamba is, would he have been as successful in the NBA if he was entering as a rookie this year?

DeRozan does a lot of things well, it’s just there are others who do those things better. Again, not even the very best dominate in various statistical categories.

But DeRozan’s offensive abilities are becoming more dated, while defensively he’s not giving his team much either. For his career, he has a defensive plus/minus average of minus-1.4.

His first two years in the league, he posted a score of minus-1.9 in that category. Last season, it was an above-average minus-1.2.

Small improvements, but when compared to guys like Oladipo (0.4), Thompson (minus-1.3) and Harden (a surprising minus-0.1), it doesn’t make for great reading.

So if DeRozan isn’t as effective as other guys offensively, and he’s a non-factor at the other end of the court at this stage of his career, what can we expect from him going forward?

It’s likely the Raptors overpaid to keep DeRozan in town, as they’ve always had a hard time attracting free agents.

Combined with Lowry (35 percent three-point shooter, breaks even with defensive contribution), the Raptors are capable of excelling because both guys compliment each other well.

He’s going to be a member of the Toronto Raptors for the foreseeable future, and there’s plenty to like about his game.

But when it comes to the money paid for his services, how he stacks up vs other players in his position and how much better he can get, it’s fair to say that DeMar DeRozan is overrated in today’s NBA.

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