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Give DeMar DeRozan his flowers for putting the Bulls in first place

Don’t look now, but the Bulls have finally found their compliment to Zach LaVine in DeMar DeRozan.

Don’t look now, but the Bulls have finally found their compliment to Zach LaVine in DeMar DeRozan.
Image: Getty Images

What a three-game stretch for the fifth-leading scorer in the NBA, DeMar DeRozan. Mr. Anti-analytics has been letting his mid-range shot fly all season, propelling him to a scoring average of 26.9 points per game. With 28 points and six assists on Monday DeRozan was the Chicago Bulls’ leader in points and assists as they knocked off the Orlando Magic, 102-98. It was the Bulls’ eighth consecutive victory.

Over the weekend, clutch baskets from DeRozan helped preserve the Bulls’ winning streak. On Friday and Saturday he scored 28 and 29 points respectively in wins against the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. While those midrange turnarounds and pull-ups accounted for most of those points, it was a couple of 3-pointers that youth basketball coaches would like scrubbed from the internet that won both of those games.

Against the Pacers,the Bulls were down 106-105 on their final possession when DeRozan pulled up off of one leg from the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer right in Torrey Craig’s face as time expired, giving the Bulls a 108-106 victory. The very next day, the Bulls were down 117-119 to the Wizards on their final possession. DeRozan caught the inbound pass, dribbled into a coffin corner, pump faked, and hit a three in Bradley Beal’s face for a 120-119 Bulls’ win. He became the first player in NBA history to make game-winning buzzer-beaters on back-to-back days.

The Bulls currently hold a two-game lead on the Brooklyn Nets for the top-seed in the Eastern Conference and DeRozan is a major reason for the most success that the Bulls have had since the 2011-12 season. He is shooting 49.4 percent from the field while averaging the second-most points of his 13-season NBA career. His scoring has greatly improved a Bulls offense that had struggled mightily over the previous six seasons. They hadn’t finished a season with an offensive rating better than 19th since the 2014-15 season. In the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons the Bulls finished 28th and 27th respectively in offensive rating.

Through 35 games this season Bulls have the sixth-highest offensive rating in the NBA. The Bulls made a lot of moves this offseason and while most were complimented, the one that was questioned was the sign and trade for DeRozan. With Zach LaVine coming off of the best season of his career, would he be able to coexist on the floor with DeRozan, and what about Coby White who the Bulls selected seventh-overall in the NBA draft in 2019?

White has settled into his new role after missing time with injury this season, and while DeRozan has the fifth-best scoring average in the NBA, LaVine has the sixth. It turns out that having two of the 10 best scorers in the league goes a long way towards getting an offense out of the cellar.

DeRozan’s success this season doesn’t mean he should win the MVP, or even make NBA All-First team, but it does serve as a reminder that at 32-years-old, he is still one of the better scorers in the league.

The bromance between Kyle Lowry and DeRozan was never going to win an NBA Championship, so DeRozan was part of a trade to bring Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors and it resulted in the franchise’s first NBA championship. Great decision by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, but the trade didn’t mean the end of DeRozan’s career. In three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs he averaged 22.7 points per game on 50.1 percent shooting.

The Bulls knew that DeRozan had plenty of gas in the tank, and by bringing him to Chicago they now have a real shot at the best record in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 10 years.

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