After spending the summer working on his shot, there was hope that DeMar DeRozan would finally improve his biggest offensive weakness: his three-point shooting. That has yet to materialize, as he’s 0-for-4 from three-point range through ten games. Moreover, DeRozan has yet to hit a three-pointer in the calendar year of 2019 over a span of 56 games. While he has long had a reputation of being a high-volume shooter, the 30-year-old hasn’t been able to extend his range beyond his beloved midrange shots.
DeRozan’s best three-point shooting season came in the 2017-18 campaign when he shot 31.0% from deep on 3.1 attempts per game with the Toronto Raptors. Simply attempting a moderate amount of three-pointers, even while shooting them at below league-average accuracy, helped Toronto’s offense operate at an elite level and helped DeRozan become an extremely valuable offensive player. His willinging to fire away from the outside was short-lived, however.
Since joining the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan has attempted just 50 three-pointers in 94 games across the regular season and playoffs, making only seven. Some of his reluctance to shoot may be attributable to head coach Gregg Popovich’s distaste for the three-pointer. More simply, DeRozan may have fallen back into old habits since being traded to the Spurs and has reverted to going with what he trusts most: his midrange jumper and his slashes to the hoop.
DeRozan has been aggressive attacking the rim and is shooting an impressive 67.7% within three feet of the basket. Additionally, he’s shooting 40.5% on midrange shots — almost identical to what he shot from the same distance last season. By taking these shots that he’s confident in and comfortable with, DeRozan is hitting a very respectable 49.3% of his field goal attempts. But, on the other hand, his reluctance and inability to take and make threes has drastically changed how the Spurs play.
DeMar DeRozan Not Shooting Threes Hurts the Offense
When DeRozan runs a pick-and-roll, opponents go under on screens, knowing that he won’t shoot the three. Without the threat of a three-pointer, teams are free to clog the lane.
With DeRozan on the floor, it has been difficult for the Spurs to play with two traditional big men. Late last season, Popovich started DeRozan, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl together but that lineup ran into issues. Largely because there was only one three-point shooter in that lineup, that fivesome was inept offensively and was outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possessions during the regular season.
This season, with Dejounte Murray starting at point guard in place of White, spacing is even more of a concern. DeRozan struggles without the ball in his hands because teams ignore him on the perimeter. As Murray’s minutes increase, the lack of spacing with DeRozan on the court will become more and more detrimental.
The Murray and DeRozan two-man pairing has a net rating of -4.9 points per 100 possession so far this season. DeRozan’s fit with White is better (+1.4), in part, because teams respect White as a three-point shooter more than Murray.
Lineups that don’t include Murray but include DeRozan, Aldridge and three shooters have mostly positive net ratings. Even dating back to last season, the lineups with three shooters were positive. The White, Forbes, DeRozan, Davis Bertans and Aldridge lineup was +21.9 per 100 possessions. The same lineup with Rudy Gay in for Bertans was +4.8 last season and is +7.8 this season.
As the numbers suggest, when surrounded by shooters, DeRozan’s lack of outside shooting can be mitigated. In such lineups, it’s easier for him to get into the paint due to the spacing on the court. Once in the paint, he’s adept at finding shooters when they are left open.
DeRozan still holds value but, thus far, the Spurs have resisted giving him a contract extension. It’s entirely possible that his three-point shooting issues have created concern about his long-term fit alongside Murray and White. Those two are likely to be a big part of San Antonio’s future and how the next iteration of the Spurs fit around them matters. If DeRozan is unable or unwilling to improve his three-point shooting, that significantly increases the chances that his time with the Spurs could be coming to an end.