Defenses need to respect DeRozan’s three-point shot

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DeMar DeRozan had one of the best seasons of his career in his first year with the San Antonio Spurs. But to take the team further he will need to extend his range out past the three-point line.

As a centerpiece in the trade that landed the Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard, and their first-ever NBA title, expectations were high for DeMar DeRozan. For the most part, DeRozan was every part the player that the San Antonio Spurs had hoped he would be.

In his first year with the Spurs, DeRozan set career highs across the boards. He expanded his game outside of just scoring and set career marks in assists, rebounds, and blocks. He also had the second-highest field goal percentage of his career. All in all, it was a very successful first season for the Spurs and their new star guard.

DeRozan and his fellow Spurs star, LaMarcus Aldridge, are two of the most dominant mid-range scorers in the league. They ranked first and second in the league in mid-range attempts per game, respectively. DeRozan attempted 7.2 mid-range fields goals per game last year, Aldridge was right behind him with 7.1 attempts per game.

The Spurs offense was powered by the mid-range scoring of their two stars. And for the most part, it was an effective plan of attack. The team posted a 112.9 offensive rating, good enough for 7th in the league, won 48 games, and made the playoffs for a record-tying 22nd year in a row.

 

There wasn’t a team in the NBA that was more accurate than the Spurs from behind the arc. As a team, San Antonio connected on 39 percent of their three-point attempts. However, there also wasn’t a team in the league attempting fewer than the Spurs 25.3 three-point shots per game. That number needs to drastically increase if the Spurs want to make the playoffs this year.

DeRozan needs to start shooting more three’s if the team is to be successful. He attempted 49 three-pointers all of last season. For context, Carmelo Anthony, who played 294 minutes all year, attempted 64.

DeRozan doesn’t even need to become an amazing three-point shooter for the Spurs to be better. He’s a career 28% from behind the arc and it’s unlikely that he’s suddenly going to turn into a long-range marksman. He just needs to shoot from deep just enough to keep the defense honest.

During the 2017-2018 season, DeRozan attempted 287 three-point shots. That year, he had the best percentage of his career, 31 percent from deep, and the Toronto Raptors won a franchise-record 59 regular-season games.  Good things can happen when DeMar is putting up shots behind the arc.

San Antonio’s starting lineup still isn’t set in stone. Whoever is in the starting lineup on opening night there is one thing that is a near certainty, there won’t be an abundance of three-point shooting.

Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and DeRozan would all prefer to attack the rim. If opposing defenses can completely disregard DeRozan every time he steps behind the arc it makes it much more difficult for other players to find cutting or driving lanes. He needs to shoot enough that defenses respect him enough to stay with him.

Even if DeRozan doesn’t increase his three-point shooting he will still be one of the Spurs primary options on offense. He’s still an All-Star level scorer with an insane repertoire of mid-range moves. He’s also improved his playmaking ability and will likely help run the Spurs offense on a regular basis.

Next: San Antonio Spurs: Game planning for Russell Westbrook and James Harden in Houston

To maximize the skillsets of their best players, the Spurs will need to space the floor. That won’t happen unless defenses respect DeRozan’s three-point shot enough to at least stay with him when he moves behind the arc.