This last offseason, the Toronto Raptors, and San Antonio Spurs pulled off one of the boldest moves we’ve seen in years, completing a trade that would send DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in order to get Kawhi Leonard to move up north.
Needless to say, this move has paid off perfectly for both sides, but obviously, this was a very controversial trade that raised a lot of questions regarding which team was actually on the winning side of the deal.
Both sides have really strong arguments but at the end of the day, which one of them is the better player? We’d love to have either on our team, but for the sake of the argument, let’s try and break this down.
Inside Scorer: DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan is one of the best elbow scorers in the league. He’s a master of the midrange and has copied pretty much every single move in Kobe Bryant’s book. He makes the most of his damage from within the close range, as he’s never been much of an outside shooter. Kawhi is solid, but DeMar is top-notch in this regard.
Outside Scorer: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard has slowly become a solid scorer from three-point territory, even despite the fact that he had no shooting stroke whatsoever when he first entered the league. So far, he’s been a career 38.7% shooter from beyond the arc. On the other hand, DeRozan is just awful from three-point land, connecting in just 28.7% of his attempts from three over his career.
Playmaking: DeMar DeRozan
Even though Kawhi Leonard is an average playmaker, he’s never been actually called or required to do so, as he’s spent most of his time either playing as an on-ball defender or being the focal point of the team’s offense. DeRozan, on the other hand, has handled some playmaking duties from time to time and it looks like a natural part of his game. Also, he averages 3.1 assists per game compared to Kawhi’s 2.3.
Athleticism: DeMar DeRozan
Kawhi Leonard is quite an athletic player, he can finish with both hands, is an explosive finisher and dunker (when he wants to) and has a huge wingspan to be a lockdown defender. Nonetheless, DeRozan is one of the most athletic players in the league. He’s got a huge ability to contour his body and finish through contact down the lane, while also being a great finisher with both hands.
Defense: Kawhi Leonard
That one is not even close, as just a handful of players could even dare to try and compete with Kawhi when it comes to defense. DeRozan has never been much of a stopper, even though he’s clearly worked hard on that end over the last couple of years. Kawhi, on the other hand, is a yearly frontrunner to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Rim Protection: Kawhi Leonard
On that same note, DeMar DeRozan has never been much of a rim protector, even though his athleticism and high hops have helped him get a couple of beautiful blocks throughout his career. Still, Leonard’s huge hands, lateral quickness, defensive awareness, and positioning make him a huge factor below the rim, even if he just averages 0.7 blocks per game.
Rebounding: Kawhi Leonard
DeMar DeRozan’s game is starting to round up lately, as he was used to being more of a volume scorer and that’s it. On the other hand, Leonard’s offense grew after he was used to contributing in every aspect of the game, rebounding included. Throughout his career, Leonard has averaged 6.2 boards a game, while DeRozan has averaged just 4.1.
Clutch: DeMar DeRozan
Even despite his greatness and his overall impact, Kawhi Leonard has always tended to disappear during the clutch, missing wide open shots and layups and even getting kind of torched in the defensive end of the floor. DeRozan has been huge in the clutch during the regular season, even though he’s been a massive choker in the playoffs.
Leadership: Kawhi Leonard
This one’s a tricky one, as you may argue Kawhi isn’t vocal at all and he blatantly bailed out on his teammates and the organization, but this guy was a Finals MVP and came down huge to stop LeBron for the Spurs. Still, he gets the nod mostly because DeRozan has always been a massive choker come playoff time.
Basketball IQ: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard has one of the highest basketball IQs in the world. He doesn’t make mistakes, takes good care of the ball, is a great driver and cutter and a guy that always seems to know where he’s supposed to be. DeRozan is quickly improving in that regard, and will only get better under Popovich’s tutelage.
Better Scorer: DeMar DeRozan
Even though Kawhi’s offensive game has really improved as years go by, DeMar DeRozan made it to the league purely because of his offensive talent. His offense just flows naturally and the rest of his game follows along when he’s locked in as a scorer. Both are great scorers, but DeRozan can consistently put up 30+ points with ease even without a three-point shot.
Impact: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard’s impact is just huge. He has a 22.2 career PER compared to DeMar DeRozan’s 17.8 He’s effective in both ends of the floor and what he can do in the defensive end is something just a handful of players have ever been able of doing. He can guard one through five, check Durant, Curry, LeBron, and Harden; and then go and put up 25 points on the other side of the hardwood.
1 on 1 Game: Kawhi Leonard
Both players have a great 1-on-1 game. DeRozan can post up, shoot from mid-range, finish with both hands and put defenders on skates. Still, Kawhi Leonard has the upper hand considering his great defensive expertise and the fact that can really lockdown DeRozan – or every single All-Star scorer – on any given night.