Like many of you, I have really enjoyed the growth and maturity of DeMar DeRozan. Yes his offensive game has taken great strides this year with the addition of a consistent mid range jumper with a slight improvement of his success beyond the arch. But; one area where DeMar has made the greatest improvement and continues to get little to no respect when it comes to Raps fans is his defense. Now many people will likely call me crazy for this statement, but DeMar is easily the best perimeter defender this team has to offer and may just be the most vital defensive player to our success this post-season.
DeMar this season has been nothing short of sensational on the defensive end. He has made great strides in improving his lateral quickness to stay in front of defenders and developing the patience to no longer jump on shot fakes or be caught put of position on defensive rotations.
To illustrate my point, let’s examine just how good DeMar has been on defense compared to the NBA’s elite. In order to do this, I will focus on the wonderful tool of analytics. Keep in mind that the players I picked were based on reputation amongst fans as being some of the more elite defenders in the game today or recently. I also included Terrence Ross for good measure since Raps fans have a raging hard on for his defense. The defensive areas I chose to focus in on were defending the pick and roll, spot up and off screens. The reason for this is because the majority of wing players spend the vast majority of the time defending a pick and roll play or a spot up shot. Usually just these two plays alone account for over 60% of a wing player's defensive plays.
Categories included in this chart include:
Overall Defense (OD – Measured by Points per Possession)
Overall FG% Against (FG% – Measured by the field goal percentage the player gives up)
Pick and Roll defense on the ball handler (PnR – Measured by Points per Possession)
Spot up Defense (SuD - Measured by Points per Possession)
Off Screen (OS - Measured by Points per Possession)
Isolation plays – one on one (IP – Measured by Points per Possession)
Post defense (PD - Measured by Points per Possession)
After reviewing these numbers, a few things jump out at you likely. For one, just how incredible Kawhi Leonard is defensively. At the young age of 22, he is already dominating the league with his defense. He ranks 30th overall in the league in terms of PPP given up which is quite incredible for a wing defender given just how much wing players touch the ball on a given night. Another area that jumps out at me personally is DeRozan, the topic of this post and discussion. DeRozan ranks with the best of the best when it comes with overall defense, FG% given up, defending the pick and roll, Isolation plays and off screens. As I said, the stats that we need to pay most attention to are PnR and Spot up defense because they make up the majority of a wing players defensive time. When it comes to DeRozan he is right alongside Lebron, George and the leagues best when it comes to these areas and perimeter D.
Player OD FG% PnR SuD OS IP PD
D. DeRozan .81 36.7 0.73 0.92 0.86 .40 1.04
L. James .83 37.8 0.56 0.90 0.86 .79 0.75
P. George .83 37.2 0.71 0.90 1.02 .72 0.81
A. Iguodala .83 39.3 0.71 1.05 0.70 .80 0.88
T. Allen .89 37.8 0.81 0.86 1.00 1.13 1.18
L. Stephenson .85 37.5 0.78 1.05 0.75 .89 0.92
T. Sefolosha .94 42.7 0.74 1.22 0.90 .75 1.33
J.Butler .81 38.7 0.80 0.83 0.91 .70 0.77
K. Leonard .76 35.4 0.62 0.94 0.76 .68 0.94
T. Ross .89 39.3 0.85 1.02 0.82 .86 0.76
Some interesting points of discussion for DeRozan are around his PnR defense and Isolation plays. Currently, DeRozan is the league’s best isolation defender. Yes his sample size is fairly small with just 58 plays where DeMar was isolated but he still ended up only yielding .40 PPP on those plays and only allowing shooters to shoot 19% from the floor. In terms of the other areas, DeMar is well above the league average and in the top echelon of wing defenders when it comes to defending the pick and roll (giving up .73 PPP). Ross on the other hand, who has made strides on defense gives up .85 PPP defending the pick and roll. Demar also happens to be a better spot up defender as well as he gives up .91 PPP while Ross gives up 1.02 PPP. The only area Ross has a significant edge in on defense is post D but both players spend less than 8% of their time defending on the block. DeRozan also currently has a significant edge in opponent field goal percentage as Ross gives up 39% on defense to DeRozan's 36%.
While Ross is a more flashy defensive player (playing the passing lanes and making the dramatic stops), DeRozan is the better defender though I do think it is close. I think Ross has the tools to be just as good as DeMar defensively. I also don't buy the argument Ross is always on the other teams best player. This is mostly true with PG's and quick guards like Wall and Curry but bigger guys like Melo, Lebron, George etc often see lots of match up time with DeRozan. If you honestly believe DeRozan is always on the weaker defender, take a look again because it ain't the case. It is more split then you would first think. I hope this post shows Raps fans, just how good of a defender DeRozan is becoming and currently is today. Please note that analytics are most effective if we can consider a sample of a few seasons but one year can give us a good indication of where a player is headed. For DeMar, the ceiling is quite high and he is easily the Raps most consistent and best defensive player.