TUESDAY AUGUST 22, 2017
 
Blog SPORTS EXTRAS
DEROZAN SHINES AS RAPTORS BENCH FALTERS
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With the NBA regular season now almost a couple of months old, we're beginning to get an idea as to how the year is going to go.

For Toronto Raptors fans, things are looking relatively promising, with a return to the playoffs looking a genuine possibility for the NBA's sole Canadian franchise.

Dwane Casey and the rest of his Toronto coaching staff know there are a number of aspects that need improving, but the Raptors head coach can't have ignored some of the real positives that have come out of the opening couple of months of the regular season.

One of those highlights during the early portion of the year, in particular recent weeks, has been the form of DeMar DeRozan. Having established himself as an important part of this Toronto team over the past four seasons, the 2009 first round draft pick has really stepped up his game this season.

Following a sensational run of form as the Raptors went 4-0 from December 7th to 13th, DeRozan led the team in scoring in three of those wins, averaging 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

The shooting guard's performances resulted in him earning Eastern Conference player of the week honours for the first time in his seven-season NBA career. He followed that up by scoring 20 points as the Raptors went down to the Pacers. 

Shooting 51.7% from the field and an impressive 91.9% from the free-throw line, the 26-year-old helped himself to 34 points in the loss to Denver at the start of December, scoring 28 points in the thrilling 97-94 victory over the Spurs. Priced as they are at the time this article was produced at around 15/1 with the NBA betting to top the Eastern Conference this season, DeRozan is going to need to be scoring in the same manner as he has been if the Raptors are going to upset the odds.

It hasn't just been the amount of points he is scoring that has caught the eye but also the consistency of which he has done it, following up his 28 points against San Antonio with another 27 against Milwaukee and 25 against Philadelphia.

After finishing as the team's leading scorer in the past four seasons, there's a strong chance the ever-improving guard will achieve that feat again this year. DeRozan looks as though he's only getting better.

If DeRozan's prolific form is a positive from the early portion of the campaign, the collective performances of the Raptors bench over the course of the first two months is probably one of the negatives.

When considering how much focus was given to bolstering offensive options on the bench during the offseason, it's probably not the biggest surprise this bench currently ranks 29th in the league in terms of scoring.

General manager Masai Ujiri and the Raptors management focused on defensive players in the offseason, failing to replace the likes of Sixth Man of the Year winner Lou Williams and solid reserve point guard Greivis Vasquez.

While a lack of forwards on the bench hasn't really cost Toronto so far this season, there is still a long way to go between now and the play-offs. Offensive players may need to be brought in at some point in the 2016.

RELATED >> What to Expect from the Raptors this Season

PHOTO >> Philadephia 76ers

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