Make no mistake — Lonzo Ball’s meniscus tear was the straw that broke the back of the Chicago Bulls‘ 2021-22 season. However, the point guard was far from the only player to feel the injury bug’s cruel bite throughout the campaign.
Really, the team’s troubles began almost right out of the gate when former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams was felled by a dislocated wrist.
It was an issue that ultimately required surgery and a four-plus month recovery time. As a result, the Bulls were without their power forward for the majority of the season. In his stead, head coach Billy Donovan shifted star wing DeMar DeRozan to the 4 spot and, for the most part, the veteran excelled in the role.
Nevertheless, when Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney asked an Eastern Conference exec about DeRozan potentially playing regular minutes at power forward in 2022-23, he received significant pushback on the concept.
Exec: DeRozan Felt the Effects of Playing Out of Position
Over the first three-fourths or so of the campaign, DeRozan bore the look of a darkhorse MVP candidate as the starting 4-man. And during his eight-game peak from February 6-24, he averaged a whopping 38.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists while posting an effective field-goal percentage of 63.4.
According to the exec, though, it became too much of a good thing.
“He was not the same player at the end of the year that he was through the first three or four months,” the exec said. “I am convinced that’s because he was just worn down from playing at the 4 so much.”
The numbers seem to support that theory.
Over his last 20 games, DeRozan posted a subpar eFG% of 47.6%, and things were even worse on the defensive side of the ball. During that same stretch run, the baller had the second-worst D-rating on the team at 120.4, which was way up from 108.9 through his first 56 games.
Aces in Their Places
The exec conceded that there’s a time and a place for DeRozan to mix it up with the big men. And, clearly, the baller has shown that he can take advantage of mismatches and put up a whole lot of points in the position, even if it’s not the ideal spot for him.
“He can do it in stretches and give him all the credit in the world for going out there and doing it without complaining. He didn’t b**** about that at all last year,” the exec said. “But you can’t ask him to play that much at the 4 the way they did last year, he is not big enough.”
With any luck, that’s not something the Bulls will have to do. Williams was eventually able to return toward the end of last season, and even put up a string of high-scoring efforts to close out the year. And all signs point to him stepping back into his starting spot this fall, too.
“If they have Williams completely healthy, that should go a long way toward getting DeMar back at the 3 where he should be.”
All the better for DeRozan, who’s no doubt looking to reinsert himself into the MVP conversation.