The Toronto Raptors recently crossed paths with a familiar face in DeMar DeRozan, leading the Spurs to a surprising victory on the Raps.
DeRozan scored 10 points in the last 4:35 of a tight race, combined with a big bounce from LaMarcus Aldridge with 30 seconds on the clock that finally drove the Spurs to a narrow 119-114 victory.
The former USC star scored 27 points, five rebounds and eight assists in 36 minutes of play, 3/4 of which were shot from outside the bow. In addition to his talents, DeRozan found a better performance when he tormented a team that suddenly let him go with Jacob Poeltl and the 2019 draft assets in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in 2018.
On the other side of the field the Raptors clearly had a hard time competing with the Spurs, especially in difficult times. They benefited from a significant contribution from a handful of their players, led by Fred VanVleet, who scored almost double with 27 points and nine assists.
Two of their fencers, led by OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher, also gave the team a boost. The first one scored 10 points and took six rebounds, while the last one contributed 22 points and 10 boards for the Raptors. However, thanks to their combined efforts, the Raptors were unable to admit their second straight defeat of the season.
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 season it was clear that Toronto had been eroded at wing level. Nick Nurse’s team still does not seem to have recovered from Kawhi Leonard’s previous departure as the 2019-2020 season approaches.
Although Pascal Siakam already turned into an All-Star limit last season, his turnout has not yet been enough to fill the big void left by Leonard. He hasn’t yet found the consistency needed to get the Raptors over the hump because he has the length and athletics he can use to make more impact at both ends of the field.
With a gaping hole on one of their perimeter positions, the Raptors could now take their chances and return to DeRozan to try to regain the post-season title as the Eastern Conference favorites. DeRozan averaged 22.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 68 games for the Spurs during the 2019-2020 season.
Although his grades are a bit lower than in his early years with the Raptors, DeRozan is still the same regular player. In fact, he has even shown signs of improvement in his game, as he now plays at a better pace and as a league veteran makes smarter decisions on the field.
By immersing himself in a team that often moves the ball like Spurs, DeRozan has finally freed himself from the pressure that has rested on his shoulders in recent seasons and has learned to feed on the energy of his teammates. His new role under head coach Gregg Popovich turned out to be different from the role he had when he had to take on most of the team’s scoring responsibility every night.
However, DeRozan’s most important role as man with the Raptors turned out to be not very successful, as the team regularly made the play-offs but eventually failed to beat several teams led by LeBron James in recent seasons.
Although he is no longer himself, DeRozan is still a good goalkeeper and will certainly be an asset to every team in the league. If the Raptors ever decide to bring him back, it will undoubtedly be expensive and the team will be forced to trade in one of its most important parts for DeRozan’s services.
However, they might as well take their time and wait, as the screen veteran is about to enter free desk as it approaches off-season. For DeRozan, it will certainly be a decision whether or not to reject the chance to help the team that he has played a total of nine seasons.
DeMar DeRozan’s most experienced DeMar DeRozan, surrounded by a tighter unit of Raptors, could do the trick to bring this Canadian team back to the finals – with the right system and with less than an injury.
However, the Raptors can be sure that they haven’t completely burned out with DeMar DeRozan and that he can still consider returning to the team if they fail to reach an agreement with him this season.
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