San Antonio Spurs

Bell Game of the Week: Four stats to know about San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan ahead of Atlanta Hawks matchup

DeMar DeRozan hasn't made an All-Star team since being traded from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs.

That could change this season.

After missing out on the postseason for the first time in 23 seasons, the Spurs find themselves back in the playoffs mix through 25 games, sitting at No. 6 in the Western Conference with a 14-11 record entering Friday's matchup with the Atlanta Hawks (7:30 p.m. ET on TSN).

While it's been a team effort to get them this far, DeRozan has led the charge with numbers that rival his best seasons with the Raptors.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the season DeRozan is having through the lens of four stats.

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20.2: How many points per game DeRozan is averaging

It's the fewest points DeRozan has averaged since 2014-15, and yet he's having one of the most efficient seasons of his career.

His field goal percentage has taken a slight hit compared to last season, but he's taking more 3s and getting to the free-throw line a little more this season.

The result? DeRozan's True Shooting Percentage - a catch-all statistic that accounts for 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws - sits at .600. Not only is that a hair less than last season's mark (.603), which was the best of his career, it has him rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jaylen Brown, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the efficiency department.

DeRozan taking a step back as a scorer has opened up more opportunities for San Antonio's younger players, most notably Dejounte Murray, who is having the best season of his career. (One eye-popping stat: Murray has attempted 15 or more field goals in 11 games this season. Entering this season, he had nine such career games).

It's a fascinating development for DeRozan considering he isn't far removed from being one of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA.

14.2%: DeRozan's 3-point attempt rate

Meaning, 14.2 percent of DeRozan's field goal attempts this season have come from 3-point range.

That's not much compared to other players, particularly ones at his position, but it is a lot for DeRozan. According to Basketball-Reference, he's only ever had a higher 3-point attempt rate twice in his career. The first was 2013-14 when he earned his first All-Star selection. The second was 2017-18 when the Raptors pushed him to take more 3s in an attempt to diversify their offence.

DeRozan has made only 33.3 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, but that's actually the second-best mark of his career. An encouraging sign is he's taking more catch-and-shoot 3s, which he's always been decent at, at the expense of pull-up 3s, which he's always struggled with.

As long as that continues, DeRozan should continue to be a real threat from the perimeter.

6.7: How many assists per game DeRozan is averaging

It's funny to think that DeRozan's passing was seen as one of his greatest weaknesses coming into the NBA because he's developed into a legitimate playmaker for others.

In fairness, it's somewhat of a recent development.

In his nine seasons with the Raptors, DeRozan averaged 5.0 or more assists once. He's reached that mark in each of his three seasons with the Spurs, peaking this season with an average of 6.7 assists per game. That ranks him 13th in the league behind the likes of James Harden (11.0), Nikola Jokic (8.6), LeBron James (7.9) and Damian Lillard (7.1).

According to NBA.com, the player DeRozan has assisted the most so far this season is Keldon Johnson (33), another one of San Antonio's young players who is making the most of his newfound opportunities.

Johnson has shined as a cutter and slasher next to DeRozan, giving him an athletic target whenever the defence lets its guard down.

DeRozan has set Johnson up for a decent amount of 3s as well, but not quite as many as Murray (11) and Patty Mills (11).

Mills in particular has been shooting the lights out this season. He's attempting a career-high 6.5 3-pointers per game and connecting on 40.1 percent of those chances.

He's always been a sniper, but Mills has never been this good. Helping off of him to collapse on DeRozan's drives is risky business.

Perhaps the most impressive part of DeRozan's playmaking this season is he's among the league leaders in assists while averaging 1.7 turnovers per game. Only once in his career has he averaged fewer turnovers. That season? 2009-10, his first in the league.

For his assists to spike without an uptick in turnovers is, well, impressive.

104.6: San Antonio's offensive rating with DeRozan on the bench

That's ... not good.

For perspective, the Cleveland Cavaliers rank dead-last with an offensive rating of 104.0. The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't far ahead of them, ranking 29th in the league with an offensive rating of 104.6.

So with DeRozan on the bench, the Spurs have been scoring at a league-worst rate this season.

With DeRozan on the court, San Antonio's offensive rating climbs to 109.0. That's still not great compared to other teams - it would rank the Spurs in the bottom half of the league - but it's significantly better than when he's not on the court. Mills (109.2), LaMarcus Aldridge (109.8), Lonnie Walker IV (110.3) and Derrick White (111.2) have a higher offensive rating than DeRozan, but none of them carry nearly the same offensive load as he does.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, it's been the opposite case on the other end of the court. Whereas they're giving up only 102.0 points per 100 possessions with DeRozan on the bench, they're giving up 113.1 points per 100 possessions when he plays.

That's enough for the Spurs to be in the minus with DeRozan and a positive without him.

San Antonio Spurs with and without DeMar DeRozan (2020-21)
Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
On Court 109.0 113.1 -4.1
Off Court 104.6 102.0 2.6

The on-off data can be noisy, especially this early into the season because we're still working with relatively small sample sizes, but it continues a weird trend where DeRozan's teams have a better net rating when he's on the bench.

Even so, it shouldn't take away from the changes DeRozan has made to his game this season and the impact it has had on the Spurs.

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