The Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan has always been a really good NBA player, but what he’s done for the first 14 games of the 2021-22 season has taken things to another level.
DeRozan has helped lead the Bulls to an impressive 10-4 start. He’s third in the league in scoring averaging 26.9 points per game, which only trails the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant.
DeRozan leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring and along with Zach LaVine, the Bulls are the only team in the league with two scorers in the Top-10 in per game average. Beyond his natural professionalism and competitive drive, what has led DeRozan to perform so well, and with an admitted “chip on his shoulder?”
DeRozan broke it down for 670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund:
The “washed” label is just another of those knee-jerk reaction sayings that flow out of people’s mouths with little perspective or critical thinking. This is commonplace in 2021. Rank it right up there with “smh,” “he’s trash,” and other lazy generalizations and thoughtless summaries that we hear hundreds of times per day.
In this specific instance, it’s really difficult to understand considering DeRozan averaged 21.6 points per game last season for the San Antonio Spurs, 4.2 rebounds and a career-high 6.9 assists. There was nothing about that performance that should have said the future Hall-of-Famer was “washed.” Granted, I’m not sure we saw anything that would suggest he was going to launch himself into what looks like it could be the best season of his career, but it’s safe to say the “washed” label was premature.
When it comes to “the fit” conversation, most must admit, pairing two primary scorer types like DeRozan and LaVine–both of whom weren’t known as strong defenders–didn’t seem like a recipe for major success.
Most were wrong, but understandably. Usually, these kinds of team-ups don’t go over as well as this one has through a little over a dozen contests. If you’re a part of Bulls Nation, you’re likely pleasantly surprised by what you’re seeing.
How Billy Donovan is Making the DeRozan-LaVine Duo Work
Credit is due to DeRozan and LaVine for being committed to make things work harmoniously, but there also needs to be a solid offensive design for two huge talents to meld together properly. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan deserves some praise on that end.
The Bulls have implemented multiple designed actions that work interchangeably with DeRozan and LaVine. Bulls insider Stephen Noh breaks down one of the simple, but effective ways LaVine and DeRozan have been working together.
This is an explanation of the ghost or slip screen. This is often run with bigs to get rim-running opportunities, but the Bulls have used it to create open perimeter shots and mismatches for isolations with DeRozan and LaVine. Noh wrote:
Oftentimes when LaVine and DeRozan screen for each other on the top of the floor, they use ghost screens or a slip. That means they’re not really setting the pick, but instead flying off in another direction without making contact. This very simple action works because it sometimes confuses defenses, especially when the plan is to switch. Teams will oftentimes switch defensively if there is contact made on the screen, but not switch if the screen is ghosted or slipped. The tricky part is that sometimes it’s not obvious whether contact is going to be made or not, and defenders aren’t sure if they’re supposed to switch. Add in the speed of the game and the fact that there are only milliseconds to make this determination, and you can see why this action is so effective.
With two athletic and skilled players like LaVine and DeRozan, this can be a deadly look.
What’s Next For the Bulls?
The vaunted west coast trip is coming to an end shortly. The Bulls take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, November 17 and then close out the trip in Denver on Friday. If Chicago maintains their intensity after back-to-back strong showings in Los Angeles, they could make an even bigger statement returning to the United Center 12-4 or even 11-5.
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