Apr 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) controls the ball against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) during the first half of game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan: The next Paul Pierce?

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There’s no question that DeMar DeRozan deserves more of the NBA’s spotlight than he’s currently getting. After a terrific 2013-14 campaign that saw DeRozan put up superstar numbers, we have to start wondering what the 25-year-old swingman’s ceiling is. How good can he be?

DeRozan’s year was fantastic — he made his first All-Star team with averages of 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He got to the foul line 8.0 times per contest, making 82.4 percent of those. Once the playoffs hit, DeRozan didn’t shy away, averaging 23.9 points with 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He went to the charity stripe 11.3 times per game (making 89.9 percent).

Since the implementation of the 3-point line, there have been 57 occurrences of the stat line that DeMar achieved. What makes it impressive, however, is the company he keeps. Here’s the list of active players who have done it:

That’s some heady company as it is. Now, let’s look at the players who are no longer active who have done it:

Wow. Each and every one of the players who have accomplished this feat are (or were at one point) considered stars. Who does DeRozan most closely resemble? For me, it’s Pierce.

PIERCE AS DEROZAN’S CEILING

Take a look at Pierce and DeRozan’s fifth seasons in the league to see just how similar they are. Keep in mind that Pierce was more of a focal point for his team and was certainly relied upon to do more (Pierce’s usage rate was 33.2 to DeRozan’s 28.0).

Player Season Age G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
DeMar DeRozan 2013-14 24 79 38.2 .429 .305 .451 .824 4.3 4.0 1.1 0.4 2.2 2.5 22.7
Paul Pierce 2002-03 25 79 39.2 .416 .302 .454 .802 7.3 4.4 1.8 0.8 3.6 2.9 25.9
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/15/2014.

Eerily similar. The numbers tell us that Pierce was the more active player, especially around the basket, where he was more committed to rebounding. DeRozan didn’t have to be that kind of player, with Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson behind him, which explains the lack of production.

For some contrast, Pierce was the leading rebounder for that 2002-03 Celtics team, which had Antoine Walker, Tony Battie and Eric Williams as the next best rebounders. Suffice to say, if Pierce didn’t hit the glass, it would have been bad.

LOOKING FORWARD

That 2002-03 season by Pierce was his second All-Star game and was the first (and only) time he led the league in total free-throws made (604) and attempted (753, 9.5 per game). Pierce would never approach those rebounding numbers (or the steal and block numbers) again, but he refined his game in other ways.

For example, Pierce wasn’t forced to be the main ball handler and his turnovers started to come down. His shooting percentages sky rocketed because he didn’t have to continually create for himself.

In that vein, DeRozan has a leg up on Pierce at this point in their careers. DeMar has Kyle Lowry to play next to him and with a better surrounding cast than those early 2000’s Celtics teams, there’s no reason to believe DeRozan won’t fare better moving forward.

IT’S NOT A KNOCK ON DEROZAN

I could see where some might think I’m shortchanging DeRozan with this comparison. After all, there are a handful of better players I could have chosen. I just see the same kind of determination growing within DeRozan and believe he’ll continue on his career trajectory.

He’s never going to be the kind of player who wins Defensive Player of the Year, but he’ll compete when properly motivated to do so. He’ll probably never lead the league in scoring, but would you be surprised to look at DeRozan in 10 years and realize he’s steadily climbed a lot of the All-Time charts?

Look at Pierce — he’s only made All-NBA four times (three third, one second team), yet look at these rankings (career NBA ranks):

  • 40th in games (1177)
  • 21st in minutes (42458)
  • 31st in field goals (8203)
  • 5th in 3-pointers (1935)
  • 18th in points (25031)
  • 33rd in defensive rebounds (5965)
  • 74th in assists (4483)
  • 21st in steals (1669)

I’d wager the folks in Toronto would love to see DeRozan have that kind of continued excellence and have the longevity and durability required to rack up those kinds of numbers. What do you guys think? Who does DeRozan best line up with historically?

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Tags: DeMar DeRozan NBA Toronto Raptors

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