In his first six NBA seasons, DeMar DeRozan attempted 31 to 37 percent of his shots from mid-range, which is defined as the area between the free-throw line and the three-point line. This year, however, DeRozan’s is only hoisting mid-range jumpers at a 24 percent clip.
That was by design.
“You try to be conscious of finding lanes, finding gaps, finding angles where you can get to the basket and get inside that paint,” DeRozan said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Any player, once you get inside that paint, you got a high percentage to score every single time. That’s my goal every single time. If I don’t get the shot, I know I can get either fouled or I can draw in the defense and kick it out for my teammates.”
Whatever DeRozan is doing differently, it’s working. He is averaging 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists this season and was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
The Raptors (16-10) have been one of the best teams in the East this season, but you wouldn’t know it from the attention they’ve gotten – mainly because they’ve been flying the radar, as usual.
“Yeah, we definitely (feel under the radar),” DeRozan said. “It’s crazy sometimes when we sit back and look at it or even when we’re watching games and we see other teams get all the recognition, even teams that’s not higher than us in the standings or have a better record than us. But we go out every single night with that mentality like we’re the underdogs, like we’re always fighting for the bottom. I think that gives us the edge a lot of times when we go out and play teams because we play with that chip on our shoulder.”
Toronto has even been solid in defeat, with eight of its 10 losses coming by six points or fewer. That includes a pair of losses to the Golden State Warriors, who beat the Raptors 115-110 on Nov. 17 and 112-109 on Dec. 5.
Toronto was trying to hand Golden State (25-1) its first loss, something that Milwaukee accomplished this past Saturday.
“It was definitely motivation,” DeRozan said. “They earned their credit. We was trying to knock if of, especially early on. We had another shot at it, and we fell short both times. But we get up for challenges like that versus teams like that. It’s definitely fun to be in that type of atmosphere playing against a team like that.”
DeRozan, 26, has spent his entire career in Toronto, but one must wonder if one day the Lakers will come calling. After all, DeRozan is from Compton and played college ball at USC. Plus, he has seen firsthand just how much Raptors fans love his teammate, Toronto native Cory Joseph.
“Oh man, they love him,” DeRozan said. “Next to Drake, he’s the biggest thing in Canada. It’s definitely cool to see the love that he gets.”
For now, though, DeRozan is focused on leading the Raptors back to the playoffs. A second straight All-Star appearance wouldn’t be too bad, either.
“(I’m) just (going to) continue to go out there and make my teammates better,” DeRozan said. “That’s my mindset when I go out there. If I go out there and make my teammates better, everything else will come easier for me on the floor.”