With their heartbreaking loss to the cellar-dwelling Orlando Magic on Friday, the Chicago Bulls looked to be approaching the badlands themselves. That setback — the team’s fourth straight and sixth in seven games — dropped the club to 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-10 record entering Monday’s bout with the Boston Celtics.
The big drama coming out of the contest was Zach LaVine’s poor performance and the fact that Billy Donovan opted not to utilize him down the stretch when the Bulls still had a chance to pull out the win. But it’s also worth noting that DeMar DeRozan dropped 41 points in the game despite attempting just two three-point shots.
Had he not been there to light up the scoreboard, the Bulls probably get run off the floor.
Nevertheless, there are real questions to be asked about putting so many eggs in the basket of an aging DeRozan with his throwback offensive game. Especially as his efforts have fallen a half-notch below his near-MVP level of last season. And there’s a chance that the Windy City faithful won’t like the answers to those questions
But we hit an Eastern Conference coach with one of them anyway.
Bulls Facing Slim Margins With DeRozan
DeRozan has always been a mid-range maestro, but a three-point uptick last season — when he shot a career-high 35.2% from distance — helped him regain his All-Star status. This season, though, the 33-year-old is back down to 21.7% from deep.
The decline leaves one to wonder: can DeRozan still be impactful on a level close to that of last season if he continues to struggle from three? And how much does it actually matter when he’s only taking one or two a game?
In conversation with Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney, the aforementioned coach opined that the latter question is the more important one… and the answer is that it matters a lot.
“The problem for the Bulls with DeMar or any team that builds around him is that you’ve got a small margin of error,” the coach said. “The defense can collapse into the lane around the elbow and still cut off passing angles — you’re just not getting the space created that you do when your star can also take four or five 3-pointers a game.”
So, while Donovan chose to ride DeRozan and sit LaVine down the stretch of the Magic game, the opposite should probably be his modus operandi as the season rolls ahead.
“They should be putting more emphasis on LaVine even though he has not played that well, just because if you want to win in the playoffs, you do not want to be relying too much on DeRozan,” the coach added.
DeRozan’s Mid-Range Game Continues to Be Otherworldly
Regardless of how one feels about players taking long twos and mid-range Js, DeRozan has been undeniably good as a point-generator while living on a steady diet of them.
Among players attempting 30 or more shots this season from 20 to 24 feet away from the hoop, DeRozan leads the league with a field goal percentage of 54.3 on such shots. He has been almost as good from 15 to 19 feet, too, connecting at a 51.3% clip (fifth league-wide using the same minimum attempts.)
Those shots account for nearly 47% of his attempts overall — and he’s also getting to the line at an incredible rate, as per usual — which is why DeRozan is still managing to score nearly 1.5 points per shot attempt, an uber-efficient number despite his decidedly un-analytical approach to offense.