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New Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse sat down with All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan shortly after he was hired to challenge the swingman to become a better defender.
By most advanced metrics, DeRozan was one of the worst defenders in the league this past season and Nurse knows DeRozan is too talented and important for the team to hide him on the defensive end of the floor.
“We sat down,” Nurse said. “And he’s on the edge of his seat saying, ‘What do you got for me.’ I was like, ‘Well,’ and I start in and he finishes my sentence and says, ‘I know, I’m better than that, I want to work at it.’ And he’s totally down, he’s got the ability physically, he knows what he’s doing. We’ve got to make a plan and a long-term plan and stick with it a little bit.”
DeRozan is a gifted offensive player. He averaged 23.0 points per game in 2017-18 and shot 45.6 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from three, helping the Raptors secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
At 6-foot-7, DeRozan should be one of the better defenders in the league. But at times, it appears he’s coasting on defense in an effort to save his energy for offense.
Nurse says he’s not expecting DeRozan to become an All-NBA defender like Jimmy Butler or Paul George for example, but that DeRozan will need to make gradual improvement as the season goes on.
“I don’t expect him to be Bruce Bowen by Game 1,” Nurse said. “But by the time the playoff hits, we’ve got to have him because there’s no place we can hide him.”