DeMar DeRozan IS NOT better than Kawhi Leonard. When they were both last playing at full health in the 2016-17 season, it was clear and obvious that Kawhi Leonard was the better player. Leonard is a not only a better shooter, but is also probably the best perimeter defender the NBA has seen in the 21st century whereas some may even go as far as to call DeRozan a liability on that end of the floor. This article is not an article saying DeMar DeRozan is better than Kawhi Leonard, that would be foolish. But against one team, perhaps the most important team the Raptors will play, DeMar DeRozan has played better than Kawhi.
DeRozan had developed somewhat of a reputation as a Celtics killer in his time in Toronto. The reason behind Toronto’s retooling this offseason which featured the firing of Coach of the Year Dwane Casey and the trading of beloved franchise player Demar DeRozan to take a risk on Kawhi Leonard with only one-year left on his contract was because they could never beat LeBron James in the playoffs. Year after year they would have a great regular season and then lose to LeBron James in the playoffs, something that every Eastern Conference team did from 2011-2018. But with LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are now the team that Toronto has to fight with for Eastern Conference supremacy and DeRozan and Casey never had any trouble with them.
Over the last 3 seasons, the Raptors are 8-4 against the Celtics and DeMar DeRozan was a big part of that. These are DeRozan and Leonard’s numbers against the Celtics in the 2016-17 season:
DeMar DeRozan: 36.0ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.3apg, 0.7spg, 0.0bpg, 49fg%
Kawhi Leonard: 25.5ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.0apg, 1,0spg, 1.5bpg, 49fg%
Amazing numbers for DeRozan and it gets even worse for Leonard if you go back one year further:
DeMar DeRozan: 23.3ppg, 4rpg, 5apg, 1.3spg, 0.0bpg, 43fg%
Kawhi Leonard: 17.0ppg, 6rpg, 3apg, 2.0spg, 0.5bpg, 39fg%
Leonard just hasn’t been able to put up the same production as DeRozan when he’s gone up against the Celtics. DeRozan has been better than anyone in the league at dominating Boston over the last 3 seasons. These numbers call into question whether the Raptors would have a better chance against the Celtics this season if they had kept DeRozan, which is ironic considering how loud the noise was each offseason for them to make changes to their team. Leonard may be a clear upgrade from DeRozan on most nights, but he’ll have even bigger shoes to fill when it comes to playing the Celtics. A team that he hasn’t fared too well against over the course of his career.
(Chris Young - The Canadian Press via AP)