DeMar DeRozan's 'Passing' Expectations

DeMar DeRozan has increased his assist numbers without increasing the number of passes he makes. He's become one of the most efficient passers in the NBA.

The Toronto Raptors have been on a tear recently, winning six of seven games in December and propelling themselves to the third spot in the Eastern Conference with 19 wins in 27 games. They've been winning games by a margin of nearly 14 points.  Obviously, DeMar DeRozan has been integral to the team's success, doing all the things he usually does and then some. He's been scoring consistently, averaging 26 points per game on roughly 50 percent shooting. He's also had a couple of monster performances like his 37 point night against the Phoenix Suns.

What people may not have noticed (probably because of his ridiculous scoring ability) is that DeRozan has rapidly become one of the most efficient passers in the NBA.

There's a New Point Guard in Town

DeRozan has never really been known as much of a passer throughout his career, having averaged just under three assists per game. Here he is averaging five assists per game on the season. He's been even better in December, averaging six assists per game this month.

While the numbers aren't particularly impressive, what's remarkable is that DeRozan has seen the increase in assists without changing his game. He hasn't become a lockdown three-point shooter, and he hasn't forced the ball downcourt every possession. He realized that teams have to collapse on him in the midrange, which will inevitably leave someone open.

Check out this video of a recent performance against the Sacramento Kings where DeRozan went for nine assists.

What would've formerly been shots out of a pick-and-roll or midrange post-up, DeRozan has been converting into opportunities for his teammates. Aesthetically speaking, DeRozan's game is the same, he's just become smarter about the passes he makes.

The numbers back this up too. DeRozan has managed to nearly double his assist numbers without a significant increase in the number of passes he makes. He passes the ball 36 times per game this season compared to 35 passes per game last season. His turnover's per game are the same as last season.

DeRozan has become one of the most efficient passers in league with 14 percent of his passes leading to a made bucket. Looking at players who have played at least 10 games and averaged more than 10 minutes per game this season, DeRozan trails only Chris Paul, James Harden, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James concerning passing efficiency. He's tied with Rajon Rondo.

Talk about an elite company.

Leading the Way

FFans know by now that the Raptors have been trying to revitalize their once stagnant offense by focusing on ball-movement. Well, it looks like DeRozan took that sentiment to heart. If DeRozan can maintain his assist numbers and his efficiency, the Raptors could cause some real problems in the playoffs.

He and the Raptors have been 'passing' expectations.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, unless otherwise stated.

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