Wednesday was the fourth-annual Drake night at the Air Canada Centre. A new tradition for the Toronto Raptors that started during the 2013 season, the theme of the night being Hip-Hop’s Drake and his OVO label. From OVO styled jerseys of DeMar DeRozan and other Raptors, to his music playing in the arena all night, to Drake himself being a court-side reporter during the actual game. The Raptors organization shows love to their global ambassador.
It’s also a place where Drake wears stuff like this…
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 17, 2016
Then says stuff like this…
Iz talks to Drake about Doris Burke pic.twitter.com/5fYqPptuaa
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 17, 2016
And somehow, gets a response like this!
@Drake dinner is on ❤️️
— Doris Burke (@heydb) November 17, 2016
Drake was definitely winning Wednesday, but the Raptors took their first Drake night loss to the Golden State Warriors 127-121, mainly because Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined for 65 points on 21/40 shooting from the field (over half of the Warriors points). It was an especially hard fought battle, and Toronto rallied after a terrible second quarter, being outscored 32-15, by making it a six-point game heading into the final quarter. The Raptors fell to 3-1 on Drake night.
Since their record is 3-1, there has to be a reference to the Warriors having a 3-1 lead that they blew in the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers somewhere on Twitter…
With tonight’s loss, the Raptors are 3-1 on Drake Nights. Kinda like how the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals. pic.twitter.com/KWVThTFTNS
— Victoria Nguyen (@NBAJournalist) November 17, 2016
There it is!
There’s a silver lining for Toronto, other than their seeing their Pop Culture Superstar make a date with Doris Burke. Their star player, DeMar DeRozan, is currently having a career year, so far. He had 34 points and is leading the league in scoring, averaging 33.3 PPG early on. I watched the entire game, and I have to say that DeMar did his thing, but after digging deep into his stats throughout the Raptors 11 games, I’ve been skeptical of future performances to come. Is it really possible to average 30+ points over the entire course of a season when you can’t shoot 3’s and pace-and-space is the name of the game? Only time will tell as the sample size increases, but let’s look at what we already have.
Games 1-11 (7-4 record)
33.3 PPG, .506/.261/.817 on 23.9 FGA, 2.1 3PA, 10.5 FTA.
At first glance, you look at the numbers and say “wow, this might be sustainable”, and there’s information to back that up. He’s attempting nearly 24 shots with 10.5 trips to the line per night. His free throw attempts are only behind Russell Westbrook (11.6), Anthony Davis (11.5), and DeMarcus Cousins (11.0). If Demar were to continue with this volume of shooting every night, over the course of a season, he could average around what he is now.
But then you look at numbers from DeMar’s last three years and things don’t add up.
2013-14 to 2015-16 Regular Season
22.2 PPG, .431/.311/.836 on 17.4 FGA, 2.0 3PA, 7.9 FTA
Over the past three years we assumed that DeMar defined what he was: a two-guard that made long twos, finished at the rim with his athleticism, and a not so solid defender. 22.2 points per game over three seasons makes sense. So, when that same person has a jump of 11.1 points per game, being skeptical is a natural reaction. He’s attempted 2.6 more free throws, but the percentage is at 81.7 compared to 83.6. Then you look at how he averaged 44.7% shooting on 15.4 two-pointers per game in the last three seasons, and how this year he’s at 52.9% on 21.8 two-pointers (THAT’S OVER SIX MORE 2’s A GAME).
While he’s attempting more 2’s, they’re being constantly contested. According to stats.nba.com, 17 of DeMar’s 21.8 two-point shots are with defenders 0-2 feet away (very tight) or 2-4 feet away (tight). It’s borderline impossible for DeRozan to keep up this efficiency on his jump shots over the course of the season.
Via stats.nba.com, here’s his shot chart:
He’s finishing slightly below the league’s average at the rim, but he’s dominant within the 3-point line, however, Toronto will run into more teams that specialize on defending guards. There’s always a chance for an off-night. We have to come back to the question of whether or not this scoring and efficiency is maintainable.
To drive this point home, let’s look at another player’s stat line over the course of 29 games from the 2013-2014 season.
35.0-7.5-6.3, .527/.399/.878 on 22.4 shots, 6.5 3PA, 10.1 FTA
There’s only one person that this can be and that is 2014’s Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant. If Durant could do that over the course of five to six weeks, why can’t DeMar do something similar? Several reason why I can’t see it happening: Durant has always been much more efficient. Factor in that he has the height of a center, the skill-set of a small forward, and the touch of a natural shooter, and it’s no wonder Durant pulled what he did off. Keep in mind, this 29-game stretch was when former teammate Russell Westbrook missed 29 straight out of the 36 he was out for due to knee surgery. DeMar may be carrying Toronto, but the burden isn’t as much as 2014 Durant’s was, and DeMar isn’t as skilled.
Anyone can have an insane hot streak for 20 to 30 games, fall back to earth, and finish the year on a solid note. The problem is, that no one forgets that hot streak you originally had, and wonders if the signs of a leap or career year happening were a false alarm. If you need proof, go ask 2014 Paul George.
Whether or not DeMar DeRozan really averages 30+ points per game over the course of a season will have to wait on time. I’m not confident that he will, but I’ll be watching, because at the end of the day, you never know. The NBA is where history is made all the time.