Columnist image
Josh Lewenberg

TSN Raptors Reporter


TORONTO – When DeMar DeRozan won his last Player of the Week award in November he shrugged it off. It has almost become routine for the Raptors’ guard, who – at this stage of his career – has his sights set on much loftier accolades and accomplishments.

“Congratulations,” a reporter said the following afternoon.

“On what?,” DeRozan asked, sincerely.

“Player of the Week.”

“Oh,” he replied. “I forgot all about that. I saw it on Instagram.”

Perhaps that speaks to DeRozan’s evolution from wide-eyed overachiever to burgeoning NBA superstar as much or more than anything else. Gone are the days when even the smallest acknowledgment from the league would warrant a celebration. He expects it now, as he should.

Fresh off arguably the best three-game stretch of his nine-year career, DeRozan was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week again on Tuesday.

The three-time – and soon-to-be four-time – all-star led Toronto to a perfect 3-0 record last week, averaging 34.0 points (tops in the East over that span), 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

The highlight was his career-high 45-point performance in Thursday’s comeback win over Philadelphia, but after years of being labeled a one-dimensional scorer it’s the continued growth he showed in other areas of his game that made this past week truly impressive.

Could he score efficiently, many of his critics had wondered in the past.

DeRozan needed just 56 shots and 76 used possessions to score 102 points last week. He hit 57 per cent of his field goal attempts, bumping his career-best true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account twos, threes and free throws) up to .588 on the season.

Does he make his teammates better?

After adding another 13 assists last week, DeRozan is averaging 4.9 this season – also a personal best. The Raptors outscored opponents by 39 points when he was on the court over these last three games and were merely even with them in the minutes he sat.

Can he, at minimum, turn himself into an average defender?

This remains to be seen, of course, but while his offensive outburst is what we will remember from Thursday’s win in Philadelphia, he also played some of the best defence we’ve ever seen from him in the second half of that game. After Robert Covington went off for 14 points in the first half (shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range), DeRozan helped hold him to five points (1-of-6 from deep) in the second, as the Raptors overcame a 22-point deficit.

When will he extend his range out to the three-point line?

After shooting 1-for-18 from three-point range over a span of 11 games (which included 16 straight misses), it was especially surprising to see him go 13-for-20 this past week – the most threes he’s ever made or attempted in any three-game stretch. Obviously the sample size is small, but it’s a positive sign for a player that’s always been reluctant to venture beyond his mid-range comfort zone with regularity. Dwane Casey credits this recent spike to the work DeRozan has put in on his three-point shot, noticing that he’s taking it with more confidence and being more aggressive in looking for opportunities to let it fly. That it hasn’t come at the expense of the other things he does well (he still shot 29 free throws) is also encouraging.

At 28, DeRozan is still getting better, still proving people wrong and adding to his resume. This is the seventh time he has earned Player of the Week honours, tying him with Vince Carter and Chris Bosh for most in Raptors franchise history. He’s won the award once in each of the NBA’s last six full months, dating back to the beginning of last season.

He should also have a case for Player of the Month when it’s announced next week. DeRozan is currently averaging 27.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 51 per cent (44 per cent from three-point range) in leading Toronto to a 10-1 record with three games remaining in December.