The Toronto Raptors finally got over that invisible hurdle last season as they not only made it out of the first round but made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Yes, they fell against the Cleveland Cavaliers but they made a statement to the rest of the NBA in the process.
A loss is still a loss and to lose in the Conference Finals will either break you or make you stronger. For DeMar DeRozan, it has done the latter. DeRozan is the NBA’s leading scorer at 33 points per game but it’s how he gets those points that make you do a double-take. While most prolific wing scorers will use an array of moves, from slashing, creating, three’s and free throws, DeRozan earns his without the help of the three-pointer.
DeRozan takes one per game and relies on his athletic ability to either get to the rim or take a much easier and proficient shot from 18 feet. He does average 25 shots per game but once again, those are proficient attempts. His FG percentage stand at 51% and that’s way above average for a wing player. When you look at guys like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden you can see they have no fear of stepping beyond the arc. DeRozan has learned, much like Kobe did from Michael Jordan that the three-pointer, while effective if made can also be a hindrance.
What DeRozan has finally learned is that he is the main attraction on this team, the leader of a team that’s looking to make a return trip back the Conference Finals and possibly further. But to do so, he must be a little selfish. That is the crown that he wears now. He has firmly established himself as an elite player in this league and as long as he can continue to lead the Raptors to wins he will be mentioned in the same breath as the Harden’s, Wade’s and Kobe’s.
In order to be the man you must be willing to figure out where it went wrong, correct it and come back stronger than before. There has not been a player that has contained him this season. He has that look that very few players get when they are locked in. The game is no longer fun. DeRozan has realized this is a business and he has approached the season as such. I remember when Kobe and Mike realized the same. All they did was gone on to win a championship that same year.