Every year the ESPN Top 100 comes out, and every year there are players ranked way lower than they should be, and some players ranked much higher than deserved. This year, DeMar DeRozan was the person who fell in the ESPN player rankings. DeRozan was the 82nd best player in the NBA entering 2021 according to ESPN.
What's puzzling about this is that ESPN came up with that ranking the season after DeRozan averaged 22.1 points per game on 53% shooting. This is the first time in his career that DeMar DeRozan has shot better than 50%. DeRozan also contributed 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game for the Spurs last season.
Although the Spurs did not make the playoffs for the first time in 23 seasons, DeMar DeRozan is not the person that should take the blame. The Spurs play traditional basketball in a non-traditional basketball era, which is why they are struggling to win games at the same rate that they were accustomed to. That, and no Tim Duncan.
DeMar DeRozan has evolved as an offensive player since he got to San Antonio. He is taking better shots and is more involved in playmaking now than he has ever been before.
DeRozan's decision making has made him so dangerous as an offensive player.
To say that DeMar DeRozan is still a sure fire all-star may be a bit of a stretch in the Western Conference, but to not have him in the top 50 seems a little outrageous.
DeMar DeRozan is a four time all-star, and has even made an All-NBA team twice. When there are guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and PJ Tucker ranked ahead of him, it makes you scratch your head a little bit. Even though those guys are solid players, it is very improbable that either of them ever make an all-star team, never mind an All-NBA team.
Steven Adams, OG Anunoby, Davis Bertans, Myles Turner, Eric Bledsoe and Mike Conley are all guys ranked ahead of DeMar DeRozan on this list.
Are any of these guys better? More well rounded, yes. Better, no.
If you watch basketball, you understand that there are very few players in the league that can do what DeMar DeRozan does on the offensive end. Greg Popovich has turned DeRozan into a high-IQ scoring guard. Good decisions in combination with fantastic isolation play, makes for a lethal scoring threat.
DeMar DeRozan can still contribute at a superstar level, none of those players can. DeMar gives you consistent offense, and now efficient shooting as well.
DeMar DeRozan may not be the best three-point shooter, but it would be foolish to not recognize him as one of the best individual scorers in the NBA. Even at age 31, DeRozan is still putting up some big numbers for the Spurs.
DeMar DeRozan may have seen the ranking entering his home opener for the 2021 NBA season because he played like he had something to prove. DeRozan had 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists, shooting 50% from the field and 93% from the free throw line.
DeMar DeRozan was lethal as always in the mid-range, and scored with an array of moves close to the basket.
Can Davis Bertans do that? Steven Adams? OG Anunoby? Doubtful. DeMar DeRozan is definitely taking this one personally.
Every couple of years there are stars that age or get injured and lose their star status. Most recently that player has been Gordon Hayward. Hayward went from 22 points per game and an all-star appearance to 11 and 17 points per game, and a demotion to the fourth scoring option on a playoff team.
The difference between Hayward and DeRozan is that regression can easily be seen for Hayward's career. The same can't be said for DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan has become a much smarter offensive player, shooting the ball better than ever with the Spurs. His scoring averages are also consistent with the last four years of his career including his all-star seasons in Toronto. There is no decline in DeRozan's production. If anything, there is progress. DeMar DeRozan is also averaging more rebounds and assists in San Antonio over the last couple of years than he was when he was an all-star.
There is absolutely no reason to think that DeMar DeRozan isn't an all-star caliber player anymore.
If I were DeRozan, I would also take this ranking personally. What more does a player have to do to get some recognition? Maybe this is the extra motivation that DeMar DeRozan needed to get back into the all-star game. Maybe this will be the extra push that gets the Spurs into a playoff spot in the West?
Not sure what ESPN was thinking ranking DeMar DeRozan so low on their list. Don't be surprised if DeRozan elevates his game this year to regain his all-star status, even in the West.