The NBA, it seems, is a two-team league. But there are some franchises ready to bust that myth this season and one of them is the Toronto Raptors, led by DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors host their biggest Eastern Conference rival, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thursday, Jan. 11, on TNT.
The achievements of DeRozan and his team in recent seasons have obviously been overshadowed by Cleveland, who has ousted Toronto in the postseason each of the past two years, including the conference finals in 2016. While teams like the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards have joined the Raptors in stirring the pot in the East in recent seasons, for a while Toronto and DeRozan were Cleveland’s toughest opposition in the conference.
DeRozan joined the Raptors as a top-10 draft pick out of USC in 2009. The team improved steadily and by the end of the 2013-14 season were in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2008. They’ve returned each year since. Last season they were on the Cav’s heals once again when injuries to DeRozan and Kyle Lowry slowed them down. Still, DeRozan started 78 games and averaged a career high 23.5 ppg. Their season ended in the conference semifinals when they were swept by Cleveland.
This season DeRozan has been on a hot streak, averaging over 27 ppg in helping the Raptors keep pace with Cleveland, Boston and their other Eastern Conference foes. With Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and some help off the bench, Toronto once again hopes to be in thick of things come April.
DeMar Darnell DeRozan
Born: Aug. 7, 1989
Birthplace: Flint, Michigan
Height/Weight: 6 foot, 7 inches / 220-pounds
Team: Toronto Raptors, 2009 – current
Position: Shooting Guard
Drafted: 2009, Round 1, Pick 9
Honors and Achievements: NBA All-Star, 2014, 2016, 2017; Olympic gold medal (Team USA), 2016; Pac-10 Tournament MVP, 2009