Trend Analysis: Busting DeMar DeRozan’s Slump

DeMar DeRozan’s rough January showed signs of improving as he shot 12/19 from the floor against the 76ers.

Part 1 of this breakdown focused on DeRozan’s slump, which has lasted throughout January. In this stretch, he’s been missing the tough isolation and post up jumpers that he usually makes. He’s turning the ball over twice as much as he did in December, and he’s clearly frustrated because he feels a lot of them should be foul calls that he hasn’t been getting. That’s not within his control, but shot selection is.

Through the lens of the analytical NBA, DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range shots will always be viewed as inefficient. He’s one of the only players who could get away with regularly settling for 18-foot pull ups early in the clock because he’s usually excellent at it. He kept coming up short in this cold stretch, often because he couldn’t create space one-on-one against a terrific wing defender. DeRozan started the game against Philadelphia by shooting when defenders went under in pick and roll coverage and got himself into a groove.

As the game progressed, defenders continued to sag off in pick and rolls. DeRozan has been missing shots from this range recently, but being able to stand still and shoot knowing that the defender can’t block it makes life a lot easier.

DeRozan is an assassin from 10-20 feet when he’s on, but he does so much more than that. He drives by far the most in the league by any player not named James Harden, and often times he finishes through contact whether a call comes or not.

Against Philly, DeRozan’s driving attacks got him to the rim frequently, just not the free throw line. He got just three free throws the whole game but kept finishing anyway.

DeRozan has found success lately by catching the ball and making a quick attacking move immediately. The Spurs offense is flowing a bit more freely with Derrick White emerging as a do-it-all guard and Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills resurrecting the beautiful game. DeRozan is picking his spots and getting to the rim when the defense is moving the wrong way.

Another area where DeRozan has impacted the game while struggling to shoot is in collapsing the defense and setting up high-efficiency looks for teammates.

Lots of these passes come out of the pick and roll which DeRozan has run a lot in San Antonio, especially earlier in the year when there was no true point guard healthy. DeRozan is pretty surgical when it comes to breaking down the defense in these sets.

DeMar has even had a few driving passes in this stretch where he seemed to hover in the air while searching for a teammate to pass it to.

As you can imagine, that sort of play doesn’t always go so great.

Driving and passing this frequently results in bang-bang plays and turnovers, and DeRozan’s sloppiness this month has cost San Antonio in close games when they played well enough to win. He wants a whistle on a lot of these drives, but some turnovers are simply the result of excellent defense. Forcing it is less than a 50/50 proposition, especially if you’re not getting calls.

DeRozan had been forcing up contested looks often during this slump, so it was encouraging to see him patiently attack Joel Embiid on this play. Embiid has crazy lateral quickness at his position and played pretty perfect defense when DeMar pulled him out and iso’d, but when the shot clock mandated a tough look over a seven footer, DeRozan delivered.

Though he showed improvement, the game didn’t end on the slump-busting exclamation point DeRozan had hoped for. Instead it was punctuated with the sound of air escaping a balloon. He drove to the basket through contact from Wilson Chandler, who clearly didn’t jump straight up and down. Still, the contact wasn’t significant enough to draw a whistle for the lead in someone else’s house.

The Spurs took too long to foul but had a chance to tie or win with 1.1 seconds to play. Coach Popovich took DeRozan off the floor, later saying he wanted to maximize three-point shooting because he didn’t want to go to overtime. Perhaps pulling his range-challenged star tipped that strategy to the Sixers, because nobody got a clean look on the perimeter and Philadelphia finished the win.

It was a tough end to a tough loss for DeRozan and the Spurs, but lessons learned from this game could help him build on his shooting performance with confidence and consistency to put this rough patch behind him.

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