DeMar DeRozan isn’t a star. But he is the best player on his team. He is an All-Star and when the pressure is off he can drop 25 points a game. But a star takes the pressure and flicks it over his shoulder. A star delivers in the playoffs, not necesarily a win all the time, but he carries the team with his heart, will and guts. A star doesn’t get benched by the coach. A star doesn’t get thrown out of a closeout game because he decides to go all emo having being punked by the Cavs. Again. DeMar DeRozan isn’t a star.
DeMar DeRozan is a good player. But NBA fame has nothing to do with being a good player. C.J. McCollum is a good player. But a star is someone who has an impact when everything is at stake.
Let’s talk about the anti-DeRozan. Donovan Mitchell. Even though he was eliminated last night, Donovan Mitchell made everyone believers because in a closeout game scribbled with a Utah “L” on it, Mitchell dropped 22 points in a quarter. He refused the narrative. The problem was he didn’t have enough help absent a second elite scorer.
That was not DeMar DeRozan’s problem though. DeRozan had plenty of offensive help. He had home court. He had athletic talent. But the elephant in the room is that DeMar DeRozan has a toughness problem and a heart problem and when things go all the way sideways he crumbles.
DeRozan signed a free agent deal for $136 million and this was his second year of the five year contract. The expectation was that DeRozan would deliver in the postseason. That kind of money isn’t given for the first 82 games but for the last 16. DeRozan couldn’t make it past game number 10 so we need our money back. He was perpetrating as a star. On talk radio I heard someone link him to the Dwight Howard disease: he plays worse when things matter the most.
I never bought into the Raptors new offense where DeRozan is passing the ball and making things happen. When people are under stress they go back to their old habits. DeRozan, who is 28 by the way and in his prime, wasn’t going to be this new lab animal, a concoted basketball player who eschews iso play when everything was on the line. He was going to be Compton DeRozan and SC DeRozan and drafted by the Raptors DeRozan. An iso specialist in the midrange.
The problem is midrange is easy to double and once you take that way from DeRozan, offensively, there is nothing left. Plus, he doesn’t play well when double teamed, it drains his psyche.
He was the biggest disappointment in the playoffs. He didn’t compete the last two games when he had to give everything. In closeout games Victor Oladipo and Donovan Mitchell and Anthony Davis put it all on the line and lost to a better team. The Cavs aren’t a better team than the Raptors but LeBron James is better than DeRozan. He knows it. The Raptors know it. DeRozan knows it and so it was a wrap because playoff series are decided by who the best player on the floor is.
|Jekyll/Hyde||Reg. Season PPG||Playoffs vs. Cavs PPG||Reg. Season Offensive Rating||Playoffs vs. Cavs Offensive Rating||Regular Season Defensive Rating||Playoffs vs Cavs Defensive Rating|
|DeMar DeRozan 2017-18||23.0||16.8||114||96||109||126|
That’s not an excuse for DeRozan’s lack of effort. But it is familiar.
In his last three playoffs including this year, DeRozan’s Offensive Rating has been 96, 104 and 104. The regular seasons of those three playoff runs his offensive rating was 113, 114, 114. Something happens to him in the playoffs that freezes his game. DeRozan had his highest playoff PER in his first playoff trip. That was four years ago (18.3). This year his PER was a ho-hum 16. 3. His best playoff plus/minus was four years ago too.
So why did the Raptors go all in and pay him like he was their savior?
They expected DeRozan consistency, that the same player in the regular season would show up in the postseason but here’s the truth about the NBA. No one knows who is going to show up, who is going to perform under stress.
Everyone outside of Toronto says break up Lowry/DeRozan? For what? C.J. McCollum? Why would Portland want a repeat of what the Raptors just witnessed. C.J. hits threes. He spaces the floor. He has a modern game even if he’s isn’t an All-Star. He isn’t tricking people with the star label. C.J. McCollum is a good player. DeMar DeRozan is a good player.
But stars they are not. Stars win playoff series and are not destroyed in closeout games. DeRozan needs to pay up.