Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan Makes Bold Claim on Raptors Tenure

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls.

While the Chicago Bulls aren’t necessarily worrying about their next championship, DeMar DeRozan was asked about one he missed out on – 2019 with the Toronto Raptors.

“Most definitely,” DeRozan told Stephen A. Smith on ‘Stephen A’s World’ during ESPN 2’s alternate coverage of Game 3 between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns on May 5. “Most definitely, and it sucks that we couldn’t see what could’ve happened with me still being there. That changes the whole dynamic and everything. But I definitely felt that way.”

DeRozan went on to say that he congratulated everyone and that they deserved the win.

He has previously opened up to JJ Redick on “The Old Man &  the Three” about what it felt like to watch the team that drafted him win it all without him.

One of the biggest knocks against DeRozan had been his statistical dropoff in the postseason which has led to the not-so-flattering moniker of “DeMar DeFrozen” being a bugaboo his tenure with the Bulls has not quite helped him shake.

He helped snap the Raptors’ five-year playoff drought and helped lead Toronto to five consecutive postseason appearances. But those teams could only advance past the second round one time, in 2015-16 when they fell to LeBron James and the eventual NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. DeRozan was never the Raptors’ leader in win shares in any of his nine seasons in Toronto.

The Raptors sent him to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard after the 2018 season and went on the take the 2019 crown. All that did was further cement the narrative around DeRozan for some while others properly highlighted just how balanced of an attack the Raptors put forth against the Golden State Warriors.

DeMar DeRozan as the Sixth Man?

DeRozan led the Spurs to the playoffs in that first season. But he has admitted to feeling forgotten during his tenure despite praising head coach Gregg Popovich who he credits for helping him balance out his game, particularly when it comes to being a playmaker. But it could be time for there to be another evolution in DeRozan’s game, one that involves taking a rather significant step back.

“I’d approach him and see if he is OK with being a scoring sixth man,” wrote Sam Smith of Bulls.com in the May 5 edition of his ‘Ask Sam’ mailbag. “He essentially has a form of that role now as the first substitution of the game and the half and then much of the second quarter playing with the reserves.”

DeRozan is a mid-range maven but Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas did mention wanting to change the team’s shooting profile.

For his part, DeRozan acknowledged he will look to shoot more threes next season.

But to Smith’s point, DeRozan logged over 1000 possessions without Zach LaVine or Nikola Vucevic on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. That is more time than either LaVine or Vucevic got to run the show and was more effective with DeRozan-centric units posting a plus-7.5 net efficiency differential this past season, ranking in the 91st percentile.

Of course, even an aging star who is that impactful in a lead role may bristle at a bench role.

“If he’s not interested, maybe you look to deal,” says Smith who has previously suggested the Bulls need to move DeRozan to make way for Patrick Williams.

Bulls Could Look to Lakers for DeMar DeRozan Deal

“DeRozan has been pretty open about eventually desiring to finish his career back home in Los Angeles,” Smith notes. “And LeBron James has hinted around about regretting not pursuing DeRozan instead of Russell Westbrook. The Lakers have the No. 17 pick in this draft. Maybe the Bulls can put together something to get into this draft (without a lottery miracle) and a player or two; maybe Mo Bamba, whom the Lakers don’t play. I like Jarred Vanderbilt as that defensive four.”

Trying to work out a deal with the Lakers could get rather complicated.

DeRozan is set to earn more than $28 million next season while Bamba is slated to count for $10.3 million and Vanderbilt $4.6 million. That means more salary is needed from the Lakers who are battling it out in the second round of the NBA Playoffs with the Warriors. L.A. does have the likes of Malik Beasley who is owed $16 million, restricted free agent Rui Hachimura, or unrestricted free agent D’Angelo Russell

The Bulls could perhaps be interested in a sign-and-trade with limited means for otherwise improving the team.

But most of those players have helped the Lakers get to this point while Bamba and Beasley have fallen out of their rotation and might offer the clearest path in terms of matching the salaries depending on what the Bulls do with Vucevic who is an unrestricted free agent. He and the Bulls have expressed mutual interest in a new deal.

Potentially adding Bamba could certainly change things.

“It’s all too complicated for now and obviously as we have seen with the Bucks everything depends on your expectations and results in the playoffs,” Smith admits. “Still, there could be some Bulls surprises and changes this summer. You know, unless there aren’t.”