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jeffb 01-07-2012 01:21 PM

SI: Players showing early progress

• Andrea Bargnani, F-C, Toronto Raptors

The punchline is lighting it up, with a Player Efficiency Rating equal to that of Kevin Durant, a scorching shooting percentage on two-pointers, a small uptick in free throws and a better feel for help defense. Bargnani’s legendarily awful rebounding numbers are still pretty bad, but the Raps are sixth overall in defensive rebounding rate, thanks to a gang rebounding mentality.

Bargnani won’t hit 79 percent of shots at the rim or 55 percent of his long two-pointers all season, but good things will happen if he keeps attacking, and new coach Dwane Casey has Bargnani cutting off the ball and curling around screens a bit more on offense. Keep up that kind of dynamism, and Bargnani should flourish as a scorer.


• DeMar DeRozan, G-F, Toronto Raptors

You know the numbers: DeRozan has made more threes already this season (10) than he made combined in his first two seasons (nine), and that is crucial for a team that needs floor-spacing on the wing — and for DeRozan to develop into a valuable franchise piece.

Something interesting to watch: Casey has so far turned DeRozan into less of an offensive centerpiece and more of a spot-up guy — one capable of working off the dribble as well as launching outside shots. About 12 percent of the possessions DeRozan used last season came via isolation plays, and another 15 percent saw DeRozan run the pick-and-roll. Those numbers are down this season to 5.7 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, and nearly all of those possessions have shifted to spot-up tries, per Synergy.

The shift has worked, but it also reflects how much room for improvement there is in DeRozan’s passing and decision-making with the ball. That’s the next step. One thing at a time.
The Point Forward Posts Some players showing early progress

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