Based on his two initial media sessions since the Chicago Bulls acquired him, it’s pretty apparent that DeMar DeRozan scoffs at the notion that he doesn’t fit with his new team.
“It’s basketball at the end of the day. You put me out there, I’m going to figure out whatever needs to be figured out for us to be successful. I don’t overthink it. I think that’s when a lot of people get in trouble — when you try to overthink this game. It’s a simple game. You understand what it takes, what needs to be done and you go out there and execute it and do it to the best of your abilities. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t get caught up in ‘I got to do this, do this.’ Whatever it takes to win, that’s all I care about.”
And while those comments from Monday’s media day aren’t as forceful as his from his introductory news conference in August, back when he said people questioning his fit “probably never even played basketball,” they’re still consistent.
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Unsurprisingly, coach Billy Donovan agrees.
“I think DeMar can fit anywhere because he’s smart and has an IQ and knows how to play the game,” Donovan said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. “I think the great ones know how to fit into situations.”
So here are four ways that DeRozan projects to fit seamlessly:
Alleviate pressure on Zach LaVine
No longer can teams load up on the Bulls’ leading scorer, sending double- and even triple-teams to slow down his seemingly patented scoring binges. DeRozan owns a career scoring average of 20.1 points over his 12 NBA seasons, including eight straight seasons over 20 points per game.
Not only could this bolster a Bulls offense that finished in the bottom third of the league for offensive rating last season, but it also could help LaVine and the franchise’s goal for LaVine to become a more engaged and consistent defender. With a less laborious workload offensively, LaVine will have more energy for the defensive end.
Exhibit A: LaVine’s Olympic role.
Obviously, LaVine isn’t simply going to be a defensive stopper, picking his spots offensively, for the Bulls as he did for Team USA. Nevertheless, DeRozan’s offensive acumen stands to benefit LaVine in multiple ways.
Give Donovan the option to stagger scorers
With DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vučević, Donovan has three proven scorers and lead offensive options at his disposal. And while all three will start, his ability to stagger their minutes could be huge for a team that sometimes struggled to find scoring from its second unit last season.
The Bulls posted a dismal offensive rating of 104.8 when LaVine sat last season. Yikes.
Now, Donovan theoretically can utilize his rotation to have at least one of LaVine, DeRozan and Vučević on the floor at all times. And come closing time? It could be pick your poison for opponents defensively.
Increase free-throw attempts while decreasing turnovers
The Bulls finished last in the NBA last season by averaging just 17.5 free throws per game. DeRozan has averaged 6.4 per game over his career, well above LaVine’s career average of 4 per game.
DeRozan also averaged a career-best 7.2 free-throw attempts last season, eighth in the NBA.
“DeMar is a tough guy to me. And the reason I say that is because he gets fouled all the time,” Donovan said. “You gotta have a level of toughness to create contact and get fouled.”
The ability to draw fouls and make something out of nothing is imperative for an offense to avoid getting stuck in the mud. Far too often, the Bulls did that last season. Getting to the line creates easy scoring opportunities.
It also avoids turning the ball over, which the Bulls did 15.1 times per game last season. That ranked 27th in the NBA.
DeRozan posted a career-high 6.9 assists last season while committing just 2 turnovers per game. That’s also his career average — a low number for a player with such a high usage rate.
Serve as mentor/model for Patrick Williams
Thad Young is gone, in San Antonio, as part of the DeRozan sign-and-trade transaction. And, yes, as the fourth overall pick, Williams, at some point has to spread his wings and grow on his own.
Still, it’s impressive to hear Williams give his scouting report on DeRozan’s game — all qualities that could serve the second-year forward well.
“From what I can see, the things that he does in the game are exactly what he does in practice, exactly what he does in pickup,” Williams said. “He’s just meticulous about getting to his spots, doing what he’s comfortable doing. You’re not going to speed him up. You’re not going to get him out of his comfort zone. I think that’s something that I can definitely learn from.
“He knows where his spots are. He gets to those spots, and if he’s not comfortable he gets off of it. He’s OK playing off-the-ball as well. I think that’s going to be big for me and my future but also for our team. I’m just excited to learn from him.”
But don’t, as LaVine said, “get that twisted.” DeRozan will be getting big buckets for the Bulls too.
“DeMar is a lot more than just a veteran leader,” LaVine said. “DeMar is still in the prime of his career.”