With Bryan Colangelo finally facing reality and admitting that Chris Bosh isn’t likely to return to the Raptors next season, I thought I’d weigh in on the player I think has the potential to be Toronto’s next star.
Many might feel that it is now Andrea Bargnani’s time, or that if Hedo Turkoglu apologizes and comes to camp in shape, it will temporarily be his team. I disagree with both of those names. Although, his rookie season was slightly underwhelming, my pick for the future face of the franchise is DeMar DeRozan. The reason for picking DeMar is simple: if the Raptors couldn’t win with Chris Bosh as their main piece, why would they build around another, less reliable, perimeter-oriented big? If you look at this year’s champion, the LA Lakers, they did it with Kobe Bryant as their first option and Pau Gasol as their second. Now, I’m not saying that DeMar is anywhere near Kobe, or that Bargnani is as good as Gasol, I’m simply using them as an example. With that being said, I’m also not disregarding Bargnani’s talents but I feel that he isn’t the kind of player to build a team around. He will thrive if used as the primary big offensively with a bruiser playing with him down low. In other words, I’m more than comfortable as having him as the best scoring big man on the team, just not as the team’s main piece.
DeMar is just starting his career and many may have been unimpressed with what he offered during his rookie season. In order to provide some perspective, I thought I’d compare his numbers to the first years of other twos and threes who were the main players on their respective teams this past season.
DeMar DeRozan: 8.6 PTS, 2.9 REBS, 0.7 AST, .498 FG%, 6.6 FGA, .250 3P%, 21.6 MP, Age: 20 (77 GP, 65 as starter)
Kobe Bryant: 7.6 PTS, 1.9 REBS, 1.3 AST, .417 FG%, 5.9 FGA, .375 3P%, 15.5 MP, Age: 18 (71 GP, 6 as starter)
Joe Johnson: 7.5 PTS, 3.3 REBS, 2.3 AST, .430 FG%, 7.6 FGA, .292 3P%, 24.9 MP, Age: 20 (77 GP, 60 as starter)
Danny Granger: 7.5 PTS, 4.9 REBS, 1.2 AST, .462 FG%, 6.1 FGA, .323 3P%, 22.6 MP, Age: 22 (78 GP, 17 as starter)
Andre Iguodala: 9.0 PTS, 5.7 REBS, 3.0 AST, .493 FG%, 6.7 FGA, .331 3P%, 32.8 MP, Age: 21 (82 GP, 82 as starter)
You’ll notice that the only player DeMar averaged more minutes than was Kobe. In spite of that, he’s second in that group in points per game. His field goal percentage was the best out of the five and all of them except Bryant were older than him in their rookie campaigns. Now, the one stat that jumps out at me is three point percentage. DeMar is last in the group but here’s an important note: he only attempted 16 threes the whole season. In their rookie years, Kobe, Johnson, and Iguodala all attempted at least 130 threes with Granger being the only exception with 93. If DeMar develops the ability to shoot from outside, he will force his man to come out and guard him and it will open up his entire game as it did these players.
It should be said that many wing players have put up similar rookie numbers only to go on and fall into obscurity. But it is my opinion that DeMar possesses the drive and work ethic to mould himself into the kind of complete wing player that all winning teams possess. If you follow DeMar on Twitter, almost every day he speaks of putting in multiple workout sessions and daily trips to the court. The work ethic is there. Around the time Colangelo’s statements hit the Internet, DeMar tweeted, “Don’t worry, I got us...” Now, for all we know, he could have been talking about any number of topics, but I think the timing of his tweet indicates that’s he’s talking to the Raptors and their fan base. He will not immediately become a star in his second season, probably not even in his third, but if he works as hard as the players above, he definitely has the talent to take over the team in his fourth. And for a city that should already be bracing itself for yet another rebuild, I’ll count myself lucky to have a young talent such as DeMar who wants to be the guy. It might take some time but Heir Canada will take his throne-- it's up to him what he does with it.
Follow Anas on Twitter @thisisanas