BOSTON The Toronto Raptors sent a slight ripple throughout the NBA last month when they inked DeMar DeRozan to a four-year, 40 million contract extension.
Although it might have seemed a bit pricey for a player who had yet to establish himself as one of the better shooting guards in the league, the 6-foot-7 wing has steadily improved his game every season.
And among his biggest fans?
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"He's getting better every year," Rivers said. "I don't think people notice him, not because they're in Toronto but because of their record. I think people are sleeping on him a lot."
The Celtics certainly haven't, which is why limiting his effectiveness proved to be one of the keys in Boston's 107-89 win over the Raptors with DeRozan finishing with just 10 points.
DeRozan is a career 14.3 points per game scorer. Against the C's, DeRozan's numbers take a slight dip to 13 points per game. Ditto for his shooting percentage which drops to 42.7 against the Celtics compared to 45.7 percent for his career.
In the first half, DeRozan showcased his versatility. When a defensive switch left Kevin Garnett guarding him, DeRozan wisely rose up for a 19-foot jumper as Garnett refused to give him a lane driving to the basket.
On the ensuing Celtics possession, DeRozan came up with a steal.
It was the kind of offense-defense sequence that has him among the NBA's brightest up and coming talents that is seldom talked about.
That said, keeping him under control is becoming increasingly harder as he continues to expand his game.
"He adds stuff every year," Rivers said. "Early on, he was basically Kamikazee driver; that's what we labeled him as. Now he gets to the line, he makes jump shots, he defends ... he's a total basketball player."
And that willingness to steadily improve as a player despite some solid numbers early in his career, says more about his preparation to be more than just a pretty good NBA player - but one worthy of a 40 million contract.
"A lot of guys give in and settle," Rivers said. "What I like about him is ... I don't know him, but it seems like from afar he must put a lot of time in the summer in his game. Each year, he's gotten not just a little better but a lot better in areas that you would have to work on. That's impressive."