DeMar DeRozan is unique in more ways than one. Beyond being the last of a dying breed as a midrange savant, the Raptors star is one of three guards scoring at least two points per game out of the postthis season. It represents 9.1percent of his offense in total, and he ranks in the 94.3percentile in efficiency with 1.16points per possession. The only players scoring more points on the block than him are twowings — Carmelo Anthony and Harrison Barnes — and a group of big men including DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Jokic and Blake Griffin.
A big reason for DeRozan’s success in the post is his size. He’s built more like a small forward than a traditional shooting guard and he has a high release point, which combine to make him a nightmare matchupfor most players at his position. As you can see in the table below, he’s not afraid of shooting over defenders either. In comparison to the other top-10 scorers this season, DeRozan leads the way with 74.5percent of his shot attempts coming within four feet of a defender. He is also surprisingly successful in those situations: 457for 948(48.2percent) on the season.
It might sound crazy, but DeRozan practices those shots. In an interview with NBA.comearlier this season, he said,“People don’t understand how much I work on the tough shots that I make. They look tough, but they’re easy to me because I did it over and over so many times." Now that DeRozan has developed the footwork and body control required to be a threat in the post at this stage of his career, he has the confidence to pull off advanced moves like this:
Very few of his shots out of the post are that difficult, though. DeRozan’s go-to move is a turnaround over his right shoulder — theyaccounted for roughly 81.7 percent of his turnaround attempts as of March 9 of this season — but he’s more methodical in the way he sets it up. When he has an advantage over his defender, he’ll often use his strength to get as close to the basket as possible before pulling-up over them. (The Raptors will even help him out at times by having their point guard act as the screener in the pick-and-roll when DeRozan is the ball handler to get a smaller defender switched onto him).
Throw in a slight lean to his shooting form, and it takes perfect timing for elite defenders like Avery Bradley to block his shot at the apex of his release.
It’s worth noting DeRozan is 9 for 15 when he turns over his left shoulder, so he is comfortable going in both directions. And while he’s less likely to turnaround over his left shoulder, it doesn’t prevent him from being a dominant post scorer. As Kobe Bryant once explained(to Nick Young of all people), players have to be predictable to be unstoppable. The reason why?
"If you're unpredictable you don't know what the heck you're going to do, so how can you dictate to the defense what you're going to do?"
Speaking of Bryant, DeRozan has stolen one move from him that has taken his post game to the next level. Being able to turnaround over both shoulders gives DeRozan a strong foundation to work with because he can take what the defense gives him, but his shimmy makes him practically unguardable. You’ll often see players put all their weight into defending DeRozan on the block to prevent him from getting deeper post position. As a counter, he’ll simply fake as if he’s going to turn over his left shoulder before turning over his right.
With the way their weight is pressed against him, it’s hard not to fall for it.
The shimmy is actually how DeRozan shook Derrick Rose to score the game-winning jump shot against the Knicks this season.
Which, by the way, is almost identical to the game-winner Bryant hit against the Bucks in 2009.
It goes back to Bryant’s idea of being predictable. Even though defenders know DeRozan prefers to shoot over his right shoulder, they have to respect his ability to turn over his left shoulder because he’s proven he can knock them down. Doing so, however, leaves them vulnerable to him creating the slither of space he needs to get off a shot.
Here’s another example of DeRozan using Bryant’s shimmy. The Raptors clear the right side of the floor for DeRozan, and he immediately takes the smaller Nik Stauskas to the post. Once he’s just outside the paint, notice how he drops his left foot as if he’s going to spin around him and attack the basket. It works sort of like Isaiah Thomas’ half-spin. When Stauskas bites on his fake, DeRozan knows he can then turn over his right shoulder for his signature shot.
Bryant does the same to Courtney Lee in the following possession. He shakes Lee by dropping his left foot and then makes the most out of the space by turning over his right shoulder. Lee gets a hand in his face, but there’s too much ground for him to make up to force a miss.
The shimmy wouldn’t work as well as it does if DeRozan couldn’t also put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. We’ve already gone over his jump shot, but he’s an elite finisher at the rim. Check out the following clips — all of which are from the same game this season — to get an idea of what he’s capable of doing off the dribble.
First DeRozan drains a floater over Gerald Henderson ...
...then he completes a tough left-handed layup against Jahlil Okafor...
... followed by a strong finish through Ersan Ilyasova ...
... and a smooth drive against Hollis Thompson.
Put those together and DeRozan has four options whenever he catches the ball in the post:
- Turnaround over his right shoulder for a shot he’s making 59.7 percent (67 attempts) of the time this season.
- Turnaround over his left shoulder for a shot he’s making 60.0 percent (15 attempts) of the time this season.
- Spin baseline for a layup or floater.
- Spin middle for a layup or floater.
DeRozan has one of the best floaters in the NBA, too. According to NBA Savant, he’s attempted 189floaters this seasonand made 91of those opportunities. The list of players who have attempted at least 100 floaters is sevendeep, including DeRozan, and McCollum (52.5percent) is the only one who has a greater success rate than him. That means whichever option DeRozan chooses from when he has his back to the basket basically has a 50-50 chance of going in.
Even as the NBA moves away from midrange shots and post play, those odds are too good for anyone to turn down.