Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has always been able to score—he’s averaged more than 20 points a night in each of the past four seasons, with his 2016-17 points per game average of 27.3 putting him fifth among all NBA players. One way he was never able to do it, however, was from long range. Since his career began in 2009, DeRozan has never averaged better than one made three pointer per game in a season, and his career shooting percentage from three currently sits at 28.8 percent, despite hitting 44.9 percent from the field overall.
That might be changing. To ring in 2018, DeRozan put up a new Raptors franchise record of 52 points in an overtime win against the Bucks. And he did it from all distances, shooting 5-of-9 from three-point range as part of a 17-for-29 overall night.
The only times DeRozan has made this many threes in his entire career was one random game in 2012, and once less than two weeks ago, when he went 6-for-9 against the 76ers. In other recent games, DeRozan’s gone 2-for-4, 3-for-4, and 4-for-7 from long range. Those numbers don’t exactly pop, but DeRozan has made 37 threes already this year, more than he had all of last season, and he has 20 made threes in the past two weeks. DeRozan’s also shooting 34.9 percent from deep, which, while not mind-blowing, would be a new career high if it holds.
The reason these decent numbers are such a big deal is that everyone’s been waiting on this improvement for what feels like forever, and this new development should be greeted with a “FINALLY!” from Raptors fans. DeRozan has always been a master of the mid-range, but unfortunately for him, that skill makes him more like a star player time-warped from an older era than a true game-changing presence in the modern game. As such, the potential growth of DeRozan’s perimeter shot is pretty much a long-running obsession in Toronto.
That shot may have finally arrived, or at least, we’re seeing new glimpses of it. Obviously, this is a very small sample size, but DeRozan has never had a run of games like this before, and they’re a godsend to anyone frustrated by the kind of stagnant, very-good/not-great purgatory that the Raptors have consistently sat in the past couple of years. So far this season, though, Toronto sits at 25-10 and currently leads the East in point differential per game, doing enough to spark chatter that this might be the best Raptors team ever. If DeRozan can keep shooting like this, they almost definitely will be.