DeMar DeRozan is much more than a bucket

DeRozan dropped 37 points on 63.6% of the field and added 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals for the Chicago Bulls in their Wednesday night win over reigning Eastern Conference leaders Miami Heat. He is the second Bull to ever record a 30-5-5 game in a season opener. Michael Jordan did it three times. DeMar’s 37 points is also the most by a Bull in a season opener since Jordan in 1995.

However, the 14-year-old veteran does not make headlines like some other stars. Quincy Pondexter even tweeted that DeRozan is the “most underrated player of this generation”. While that’s a different conversation altogether, DeMar definitely deserves credit and so much more than the middle-class assassin he symbolizes.

Since joining the Bulls, DeRozan has gutted teams in late-game situations. Check out this about Secret Base, one of the top followers in sports media:

And then we come to the Basketball Reference quote tweet:

The field target percentage is a very Surface level statistics in this age that lacks much context. But that surface level — how often a player makes the shots they make — can still be useful, and that’s what DeRozan is saying. This man is just a walking bucket, especially in the fourth quarter.

Steph Noh points out that DeRozan hasn’t just meandered into the rhythm jumpers; Those were difficult situations that he wanted in the basket. And how about that pull-up triple?

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DeRozan made two of three long-range shots against Miami. Very quietly and with just under two attempts per game, he achieved a career-high 35.2% from distance last season. This included a 36.1% clip about catch-and-shoot threesomes. He’s still not much of a threat when shooting from behind the bow, but if DeRozan can knock down Nikola Vucevic’s (and a healthy Zach LaVine) shot, those are open points.

We shouldn’t just gloss over his midrange abilities, either. DeRozan is one of the best in recent NBA history, and Chicago has given him even more freedom to pressure defense. According to Cleaning the Glass, 71% of DeRozan’s field goal attempts came from midfield — tied to a career high. He made a whopping 1,099 shots from medium range and made 49% of them – also a career high.

Included in that rate is a searing 53% efficiency mark on “short, medium-distance” trials between 4 and 14 feet from the tire. DeRozan may not get all the way to the edge, but he can burst or bully his way to his spots, as he showed Wednesday. Give it a mismatch and it will get a plain floater; Give him an empty corner or an open baseline and he’ll find a way:

But offense is more than a bucket. DeRozan has grown into one of the best orchestrators in the entire league. Last year, he ranked fifth in the NBA with an adjusted assist-to-pass ratio of 18.3%. This means that 18.3% of his passes resulted in either a point or a free throw for a team-mate. It’s the third-highest rate of his career after two seasons at San Antonio, but it makes sense considering DeRozan now has LaVine sharing primary playmaking duties.

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The 33-year-old attracts so much attention as a goalscorer that the defense often misses passing opportunities. And even as he appears to be settling for a goal move, DeRozan has his eyes wide open across the court.

This late-game possession sees three Heat defenders involved in central action tied up by DeRozan, with Alex Caruso’s slip providing a distraction. Vucevic gets a slight look as a result.

Here are some more examples of how DeRozan seems to settle into a goal-shooting mentality before making a great pass. Shoutout to Ayo Dosunmu for converting some of them. I also threw in Vucevic an additional impressive drop-off dime:

All of this means DeMar DeRozan is more focused on his strengths, improving on a major weakness, and emerging from an All-NBA Second Team campaign in his first year with a new team. But a lot of people, myself included, didn’t have him as a preseason choice to drive it back.

Remind me why he can’t?

THE OUTLIERS (aka other random interesting numbers I found in the void):

  • Also from Secret Base: Yeah, that’s not a promising start for the Lakers shootout.
  • Noah Vonleh really made a statement with his screen backdrop at the Boston Celtics’ season opener. Per Second Spectrum, here’s what he did in just over 20 minutes of action:
  • According to ESPN stats, Paolo Banchero’s 27 points, 9 rebounds and five assists was only the third time a rookie has managed 25-5-5 in a season debut in the last 30 years. The other two: LeBron James and Grant Hill.
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