Join Date: Dec 2007
Weems = The ideal "Plan B"?
Thought this article was interesting.... pretty much how I feel about Sonny & Demar right now (and for most of the season really).
Last spring, when the Raptors were prepping for the NBA Draft, they zeroed-in on a lanky swingman from USC pretty early on in their process.
The team was in dire need of talent on the perimeter, in desperate need of athleticism and freshman DeMar DeRozan looked like he'd be an ideal fit for the future Raptors. He had started his college career slowly, but built momentum throughout the season and ultimately won the MVP of the Pac-10 tournament. He became a much more efficient scorer - especially in the mid-range - and pledged to all that would listen that becoming an elite defender was going to be his first priority when he reached the pros.
Well, the Raptors got their man on draft night and were effusive in their praise of the youngster for weeks thereafter. They foresaw DeRozan as an instant starter, a much-needed threat on the fast break and, all told, a rare athletic specimen for Toronto to work into its system.
Then, over a month later, something seemingly minor went down.
After months of squabbling over numbers and minutes with Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic, respectively, both were shipped to Milwaukee in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. It was the kind of trade that barely causes a blip on the NBA landscape, and by the time the pre-season was set to kick-off both players looked to be buried deep in the Raptors rotation.
As the pre-season and regular season wore on, though, both found their way onto the court. For Johnson the promotion was both necessary and inevitable; expected backup power forward Reggie Evans became sidelined and Johnson stepped into his place. He had been a willing tutor for years in Detroit and now he had the opportunity to play consistent minutes with a clearly defined role and he ran with the chance he was given.
For Weems the path was a little bit trickier. He had been a D-League mainstay last season despite technically being a member of the Denver Nuggets. To many he was just another in a litany of pogo stick small forwards that can barely grasp the game at the NBA level. By the time he had reached the Raptors the former second-round pick had already been traded three times in his 14-month NBA career and there was no reason to expect anything relevant from his stay in Toronto - after all, they had just invested in a nearly identical player in the lottery of the NBA draft.
Skip ahead to today, however, and things are quite different. DeRozan, while clearly oozing with talent, has had an up-and-down season as the team's starter at shooting guard while Weems has been a shocking revelation playing in his reserve. While DeRozan has amazingly kept himself competitive at the defensive end despite many expecting him to flounder at that end of the floor, his offensive attack and overall feel for the game have yet to catch up to his natural talent. He has a knack for getting to the free-throw line, but he is inconsistent with his efforts to get himself there. He doesn't quite know how to read the Raptors offense for opportunities to exploit lax defenders or punish teams without the ball in his hands. He is still very young and will make for a very interesting second-year pro, but as the regular season winds down he seems like he's hit a ceiling in terms of his year-one development.
Weems, conversely, has a very surprising natural feel for the pro game. He has been called on more than once to corral speedier guards with his footspeed and quickness, his mid-range jumper has become deadly when he's left alone and his overall play has seen his minutes increase in each and every month of 2010. What really separates Weems from DeRozan, however, is his activity. Weems loves pressuring his man, harassing him into turnovers and then capitalizing on the other end. Weems knows how to keep moving so that he can get himself to place on the floor where he can punish teams from but also (and more importantly) he knows how to create passing lanes so that he can get the ball in those spots from his teammates. While DeRozan more often than not looks like he's trying to play mistake-free while on the court, Weems plays with more natural abandon, letting his confidence in his instincts dictate his performance within the team's game plan. Also, in the six games he's played as a starter, Weems has also averaged a very DeRozan-esque 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game (and also shot 54% from the floor), showing that with a similar role and minutes he could be counted on to play in line with Toronto's prized rookie.
None of this is meant to indict DeRozan, though. He came into this year with a lot to prove as a high draft pick and an opening night starter, whereas Weems had nothing to lose coming into this season and gets to play with significantly less pressure (and scrutiny) on his game. DeRozan is looked at as an investment whereas Weems has simply become a happy accident, a throw-in in a trade few even noticed going down last summer. That said, Weems has shown how little separates the revered lottery picks and the forgotten second-rounders. When both are offered a chance to succeed there is often a far narrower separation between the two than most seem comfortable admitting. That should seem especially true this season when several upper-crust rookies have struggled (Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, Terrence Williams, Gerald Henderson, Earl Clark) while several lower-first and second round picks have produced (Darren Collison, Taj Gibson, Dante Cunningham, DeJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, Chase Budinger). The future is still incredibly bright for DeRozan if he's willing to work to capitalize on his talents, but is must make the Raptors brass breathe a little easier knowing that they may have a spare in reserve. Hey, as good as DeRozan may someday be, it never hurts to discover that you have backup plan just in case.
Weems more DeRozan than DeMar | Sympatico.ca Sports