The post game is kind of dying. More and more centers are inching away from the paint and the 3-pointer has become a widely accepted and necessary weapon in the NBA. So who are the kings of the low block?
Lance Stephenson and DeMar DeRozan are taking up the mantle left by long time post savants from the guard position like Andre Miller and Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson. It is a rare gift to have the footwork, size and strength to play in the post — and it takes the right team able to appropriately space the floor — as a guard.
DeRozan already has an All Star berth under his belt as the Raptors’ representative. Many thought that distinction should have gone to Kyle Lowry, but DeRozan turned in a pretty solid season himself. He averaged 22.7 points per game despite shooting 42.9 percent from the floor. His emergence was a key part to the Raptors run to a division title and their first Playoff berth since 2008.
How does DeRozan create his opportunities?
Early in his career he was known as a supreme athlete and he was a participant in the dunk contest. But his game is much more dynamic than that. He is an excellent mid-range jump shooter and that is what you have to be as a guard who makes a living in the post.
Here is his heat map from last year, courtesy of Basketball-Reference:
Much of DeRozan’s scoring comes from the mid-range with a lot of work coming especially on the left side and at the rim. That suggests DeRozan has done some work slashing and posting up.
His percentage definitely needed a boost though. Take a look at his shot chart from last year:
DeRozan was pretty inefficient in these same areas where he scored most of his points.
Already this year though, DeRozan has shown himself to be a bit of a different player. DeRozan is back at around 22 points per game again this season. His field goal percentage has also dipped to 39.8 percent in the early part of this season.
The Raptors do not seem too concerned as DeRozan has shown plenty of skill in the post. He is someone the Raptors should rely on to score someway somehow.
Against Orlando last Saturday, DeRozan poured in 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Much of that came in the third quarter as he posted up Ben Godon and abused the Magic’s defense on the block. He used his size advantage to get to the rim. This was exactly how DeRozan needs to play to be successful.
Of course, DeRozan has not been consistent with this. His shooting percentages need to come up to become a bigger player in this league. He has shown he has many of the tools to be a nice secondary piece and borderline All Star.
The Raptors figure to be a big part of the Eastern Conference playoff picture yet again. DeRozan is not expected to carry them, but he is a huge weapon that will make them a force to be reckoned with.