When the Raptors selected DeMar DeRozan with the 9th pick of the 2009 draft, the team was cautiously optimistic it had found a key part of its future.

Back-to-back 30-point performances in London last week were the latest steps taken by young DeRozan to justify that faith.

As a sophomore, DeRozan has continued his trend of finishing strong.

The USC product made encouraging progress as a rookie, scoring 8.6 points per game on 49.8% shooting, improving down the stretch (57% shooting over the final 24 games of the season) just as he did during his lone year in college.

In seven games since the all-star break this year, DeRozan has averaged 21.1 points and 3.0 rebounds on 48.8% shooting. He has also nailed his last 35 free throws

DeRozan has become — along with leading scorer Andrea Bargnani — a go-to guy in Toronto, far sooner than most imagined — unless they were certain Chris Bosh would leave town the summer after Year 1.

Forced to step up, the 21-year-old has done so by focusing on the two main weaknesses critics saw in his game — ball-handling and shooting ability.

"It just looks effortless sometimes how he has the ability to create a shot ... he wants the basketball and he has the ability to create," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said after practice on Monday.

"His ball-handling has got a whole lot better, his ability to read defences (is) better and I just think his game is really starting to evolve even more than we probably expected it to."

DeRozan said he feels much stronger than he did as a rookie and that has helped.