DeMar DeRozan had a February that put him in the company of the NBA Elite. He started his March in much the same fashion with 32 points helping the Raptors to an unexpected win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
DeRozan has quickly proven himself worthy of the contract he was given by Bryan Colangelo which at the time was highly criticized. I was one of the very few that said DeRozan would play his way into being worth the money he was being given. I have to admit even I am surprised at how quickly he has accomplished that goal. Not unlike his long time fellow Raptor Amir Johnson went through the same thing a few years back. Both guys have gone on to make their contracts look like bargains in comparison to the NBA landscape.
The Raptors are just one win from matching their win total of last season with 23 games to play in the season. They are a full 4 games ahead of the Nets for the lead in Atlantic Division and tied with the Bulls for third in the Conference. It has been an amazing turnaround this season and combination of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan has been at the core of that change.
About the only thing the duo has not been able to figure out is how to get a big shot to win a game at the end of it. However, if you play well enough it never gets to that you don’t have to worry about it. That is what happened at the end of the game with the Warriors that had been close all afternoon long but at the end the Raptors made a final push to get in front to stay.
The fact that all of this is being accomplished by DeRozan with still seeing areas he can improve in has to be the most exciting thing. While the most concerning thing is if the Raptors can keep this Dynamic Duo of Lowry and DeRozan together. It is clear the two like each other and Kyle Lowry has been photo bombing and always seems to be fooling around with DeRozan at the end of the day money often trumps friendship in the NBA.
If Lowry is willing to take the money he has earned with a fantastic season in his contract year will his level of play be maintained? DeRozan has clearly shown that the numbers on his pay check have not impacted on his effort and improvement. If anything they have only proven too solidify them. Lowry is a much different case as his play and more importantly how he entered into this season in tip top shape suggest he was well aware of what was on the line for him this year.
In a perfect world the Raptors will be able to resign Lowry and his play will maintain at this high level with DeRozan by his side. No one is ever going to compare the duo to what a Carter and McGrady could have potentially done together in Toronto. A Carter and McGrady combination that Kobe Bryant went on the record to say he would have expected to battle for championships for years to come. Bryant also has been an endorser of the talents of DeRozan in the past and praised his work and dedication on improving.
The Raptors success is beyond just those two players but they own the biggest piece of it. DeRozan himself talks about how key Kyle has been to his own rise and success this season. The Raptors are on a roll like we have rarely seen from them in the team’s less than impressive history. The question now becomes is this just a moment in time or something they can maintain going forward.
Things are only going to get tougher as the seasons go along as the Eastern Conference should start to gain some balance and have more teams actually trying to win and compete. Clearly some teams at the bottom of the Conference have been targeting the draft and looking to hit is big in the lottery. Bryan Colangelo’s comments of a few days ago just confirm what we already know about the tanking problem in the NBA.
With all of this being said, for a kid from Compton, California this has been his coming out party this season that everyone is taking notice of. He grew up watching a Kobe Bryant dominate the NBA and now he is showing some flashes of his own brand of dominance. I have always seen an inner fire in DeMar DeRozan what has been happening this year is he is channelling that into being a basketball killer on that floor. Something that the guy he grew up watching has become the best in game at and one of the best all-time.
In a world that is often pretty cynical so much so that believing something like good things happen to good people seems naive. DeRozan is that good person that has worked hard and has found his way to the top bringing his team and Raptors fans along for the ride.