DeMar DeRozan evolving before our eyes

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 01: Demar Derozan
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 01: Demar Derozan /

DeMar DeRozan, in his ninth season with the Toronto Raptors, is ever growing. A testament to his long practices, hard work ethic and determination, the evolution is striking.

To be evolving this late into his career with the Toronto Raptors, really does say a lot about DeMar DeRozan. It points to a certain talent level, along with tenacious drive to be better. Those things don’t always go hand-in-hand.

We often find some talented players slacking at times, taking it too easy. We also see immensely driven players, the kind that bring the lunch pail to work, who will just never have the talent to be a top star.

DeRozan doesn’t seem to notice, though. He continues to go about his business, with the same if not harder work ethic than before. So of course, this season once again, he brought some new things to the table.

In previous seasons, it might have been as simple as getting to the line more, or improved accuracy. These were easily passed goals, things that would come with a little bit of time. Then came the hard part.

To sum up, the Toronto Raptors hit a wall. They were a damn good regular season team, whose play style and decision-making collapsed in the playoffs. They needed their main man to ascend to superstar status.

Without a doubt, that’s exactly what DeRozan is doing. He made a point in the off-season of showing the masses he hadn’t forgotten where he could make progress:

The results, and the assists.

While the percentage shown in his story isn’t exactly amazing for practice, it proves he was ready to make changes; big changes. One can only assume he was at it all off-season. More practice, more volume, for a shooter this talented, means only one thing: results.

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And here the results come. After posting a few 40+ point games in 2017, DeRozan busted out for a career and franchise-high 52 points to start 2018 the right way. The Raptors beat the Bucks 131-127 in a thrilling game that went into overtime.

The Raps needed pretty much all of DeRozan’s 52, but what got overshadowed in all of the fireworks were his eight assists. It was pointed out by Dwane Casey in the off-season that he would need DeRozan to be more of a ball handler with their new-look offense.

Obviously, it’s a huge development that it’s actually happening. Ball movement is key to winning games, so being able to dish the rock when you know you’re stuck is so important in today’s NBA.

There are still moments, lapses in judgement — such as letting the clock run for too long before passing out of the double-team on Monday night — but the fact is he did try to make a pass. That alone is improvement. As the season goes on, DeRozan should continue to get better.

Being the workhorse he is, there is just no other way.

Next: DeRozan sets franchise record in dramatic overtime win

What do you think of the Raptors’ changes in culture, and their chances of maintaining this style of play? Can they get to the point of challenging the top teams in the East, come playoff time? Let us know in the comments below!