Most All-Stars are selected for individual accomplishments. The special ones are those who come to the game representing not just themselves, but their entire team. DeMar DeRozan is such a case.
It’s amazing, when you think about it. That the Raptors have an All-Star at all is nothing short of a miracle. This wasn’t supposed to be a playoff campaign, one filled with trumpets and banners of revelry, but one led by tanks and misery, all for the goal of welcoming home native son Andrew Wiggins in June.
The Raptors were supposed to wallow in the dregs of the Eastern Conference. Rudy Gay would shoot all of the shots, Terrence Ross would play none of the minutes, and Kyle Lowry would make all of the mean mugs.
But a funny thing happened. Rudy Gay left, and suddenly, those once-rare shots and minutes bloomed in abundance. The Raptors were no longer league-pass last resorts, they were appealing — fun, even. Dunks and threes galore. Terrence Ross scoring 51 points. Kyle Lowry unleashed, free to wreak havoc where and when he so chooses. DeRozan, emerging as a complete player.
DeRozan’s $38 million contract was widely panned, as DeRozan had done little in ways of improving or producing to justify such a lengthy deal. The patience that’s so often preached in every other facet of life somehow gets disregarded in sports.
Since the Gay trade, however, the fifth-year swingman has started to justify that deal. His true shooting percentage has skyrocketed from 47.8% in December to 56.1% in February. He’s become much more of a focal point of the offense, using more possessions and displaying a passing acumen once hidden in the shadow of Rudy Gay’s usage. That DeRozan is playing his best ball while the Raptors are playing so well cannot be a coincidence.
While Lowry could have just as easily been selected, DeRozan’s game lends itself much more to the style of the All-Star contest. Launching three pointers from any which spot on the floor; gliding down the court on the break, igniting in an explosion of athleticism into the air, aimed at the rim to finish an alley-oop. Lowry’s bulldogging to the rim, though effective, isn’t all that exciting in an All-Star setting. Further, DeRozan is the “homegrown Raptor.” That’s not to say Lowry hasn’t been important to Toronto’s turnaround — he certainly has. But DeRozan survived the Colangelo years, the seasons upon seasons of rudderless navigation through the waters of mediocrity. This is his first taste of success in the NBA, in both a personal and team context. The All-Star game is his reward.
The Toronto Raptors have an All-Star. They could’ve had two, but let’s not get greedy.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com/stats