One of the most pleasant surprises in this young NBA season comes from one of our favorites here at Fake Teams: DeMar DeRozan, or as I like to call him, DeMar DeChozan, he of the Old NBA style.
Guess who’s averaging as many assists per game as Trae Young (and as Kyle Lowry)? DeRozan is tied for fifth in APG so far this year, behind Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Chris Paul. This isn’t some phantom, either: last season DeChozan’s APG increased every single month from October through March (prior to the Orlando bubble, in other words), from 2.3 APG to 8.4 APG. He also averaged 22 points per game last season.
To put this in context, only 15 players averaged 7+ APG last season.
Only six players averaged 20+ PPG and 7+ APG: LeBron James, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Harden, and Westbrook. Seems like a good list to be on!
DeRozan came to the San Antonio Spurs three years ago. In his first year as a Spur, San Antonio had the 22nd highest pace in the NBA. Last season, the Spurs were 14th. So far this season, they are 10th.
The Spurs are running more, playing more possessions, and spacing DeRozan with perimeter shooters (including LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s increased his three point attempts per game from less than one when DeRozan arrived, to nearly four this season). Similarly to other teams in the NBA, the Spurs are surrounding an elite scorer with a sub-average outside shot with players who can sink threes. DeRozan also gets to the line a bunch (currently eighth in free throw attempts per game, right behind Kevin Durant).
DeChozan’s game has changed, and he’s actually taking a few threes this season, but also the Spurs have changed: they’re playing faster, and their young perimeter players are getting better. Once Derrick White returns from injury, the young Spurs core will be even stronger. If DeRozan keeps these numbers up — he’s currently 19th on ESPN’s basic player rater, his average draft position was 32nd — he’ll have out-earned his draft day value, despite being 99% rostered.
DeRozan’s fantasy value always takes a hit because of his lack of outside shooting (totally fair, by the way). However, if he’s going to keep dishing dimes like a point guard while also scoring like a two-guard, then we’ll have to reconsider DeRozan’s spot among the fantasy basketball elites.