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DeRozan Ready To Soar With Raptors

Draft Central 09 | Press Release | Raptors Select DeRozan 9th | Video: Watch the pick | Colangelo | Triano | 1-On-1

June 25, 2009
Mike Ulmer - raptors.com

On the day Vince Carter once again altered the balance of power in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, his most striking successor has laid claim to an old fiefdom.

With the ninth choice in the NBA draft, the Raptors landed DeMar DeRozan, a 19-year-old swingman coming off his only season at USC.

DeRozan averaged 13.9 points a game for the Trojans and started all 35 of the team’s games. Talent evaluators drooled over a six-foot-seven player with seemingly unlimited leaping ability and an eagerness to defend.

A few hours before the draft, Carter was traded by the New Jersey Nets to the Orlando Magic, thus pushing the fortunes of the NBA finalists even higher.

A few minutes after his selection, DeRozan twittered his first greetings to Raptors fans. “Air Canada,” he said, “is back.”

Heady stuff considering Carter averaged nearly 24 points per game over seven years and stands out as the best-ever Raptor and a potential Hall of Fame player.

In an interview from New York from New York, DeRozan embraced the comparison.

“Oh, yeah, I think it’s very valid, especially with my athleticism and everything. I just want to come in and separate myself from when he was there and try to do a lot of other stuff that he didn’t get the chance to do.”

As expected, the Los Angeles Clippers took Oklahoma star Blake Griffin while the Memphis Grizzlies landed centre Hasheem Thabeet out of the University of Connecticut. Oklahoma City grabbed forward James Harden but the Sacramento Kings created a small stir by grabbing forward Tyreke Evans over Ricky Rubio. The Minnesota Timberwolves landed Rubio, an 18-year-old Spanish point guard at five.

The Timberwolves then grabbed their second straight point guard, Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn. Shooting guard Stephen Curry, largely expected to go to New York, landed instead with the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks consoled themselves with Jordan Hill to set the stage for DeRozan’s selection by the Raptors.

Raptors coach Jay Triano said DeRozan’s would play despite his lack of college experience.

“I think he’s got that potential and I don’t know if you can help that potential by sitting on the bench and playing restricted minutes. Whether that means starting him early and having him play the first part of the first and third quarter or coming off the bench in relief of somebody, there’s going to be a consistent number of minutes we are going to try to get him on a consistent basis.”

In DeRozan, Triano sees “excellent athletic ability. There is nothing wrong with his shot. He’s a very good mid-range shooter. He’s going to have to work on his three-point shot.

“He’s a good defender, he deflects passes and pressures the basketball. It will be more difficult to guard some of the twos in this league but we think he has the athletic ability and you combine that with heart and work ethic, we think he will be a very good defensive player.”

Triano said he and GM Bryan Colangelo shared an epiphany while watching DeRozan at a workout in Oakland.

“He said ‘what you think?’ I said, ‘that’s our guy.’ He said ‘I’m glad you said that, because that’s exactly how I feel.’”

Colangelo said he did not see DeRozan as a successor to Shawn Marion, a free agent who solidified the Raptors play at forward.

“Shawn is a three/four kind of player,” he said. “DeMar is kind of a two/three kind of player. I think the two could play together.”

The addition of DeRozan will definitely impact the roster. In addition to Marion, Joey Graham and Anthony Parker are unsigned and both would potentially be affected by DeRozan’s presence. Colangelo said DeRozan is far more advanced than another player he picked at number nine, Amar’e Stoudemire.

“Amare was a little different. He was very raw,” he said. “DeMar has got more refined basketball skills. He’s got the physical tools to be like the player who everyone says he reminds him of and that’s Vince Carter. He’s got that raw physical talent that can be honed to come together. The question is what can he become as DeMar DeRozan the basketball player? We’re excited to be a part of that.”

The addition of DeRozan was also the only splash made by the Raptors on draft night, as they were without a second round selection.