Rival With Young Phenom Named ‘Best Landing Spot’ for Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said that he wants the opportunity to win at a higher level than the team has, notably missing the playoffs in three of his four seasons with the franchise.

DeRozan is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Both sides have expressed interest in continuing their relationship, potentially on a multi-year deal that pays the six-time All-Star $40 million annually. There is no deal in place, though.

If DeRozan leaves, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes believes San Antonio Spurs are the “best landing spot.”

“First of all, everyone loves a reunion. Second, and more importantly, there’s actually a decent case for DeMar DeRozan making a positive difference with the Spurs,” Hughes wrote on June 15. “We should introduce the caveat that San Antonio should first seek out a traditional point guard with its cap space and trade assets.

“The market isn’t exactly flush with floor generals, though, so maybe the Spurs could think non-traditionally.”

Hughes points to DeRozan averaging 5.0 assists or better in six of his last seven campaigns, and his 6.9 APG average with the Spurs in 2020-21. DeRozan holds Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in the highest regard for standing by him through some tragic losses.

DeRozan has also credited Popovich for teaching him how to be a “point guard.”

“Before then, I was a scorer…if I’m 5-for-30, I don’t care. If I’m 15-for-30. Like that was my whole mindset. [Popovich] challenged me to the point of understanding the game in the complete whole,” DeRozan told ESPN, per KENS5’s Jeff Garcia in January 2022.

DeRozan’s 5.3 assists last season were improvements over his first two seasons with the Bulls while he also averaged 1.7 turnovers per game; his fewest since his rookie season.

DeRozan is averaging 5.1 assists per game in his Bulls tenure.

That is better than the 3.9 assists he posted with the Toronto Raptors in nine seasons. But it is a dropoff from the 6.2 APG he averaged with the Spurs. Part of that is the Bulls have leaned on DeRozan’s shot-making ability.

DeMar DeRozan Felt ‘Irrelevant’ in San Antonio

Per Basketball Reference, DeRozan’s 28.4% usage rate with the Bulls is the highest mark of his three stops. But DeRozan’s time with the Spurs was not an entirely positive experience.

“I doubted myself playing in San Antonio. I questioned myself if I would ever be the player I felt like I was in Toronto. Not to take away nothing from San Antonio. San Antonio and Pop taught me so much. But the way everything just transitioned unexpectedly for me, I lost a sense of confidence that I carried,” DeRozan said on “The Old Man & The Three” in September 2022.

“I was fighting and searching for that for so long in San Antonio of, ‘Damn, am I gonna be back to that?’ On top of the narrative of not being paid attention to. They use the age thing so frequent now. You can be 29 [years old] and they say you getting old. But at the time, just paying attention to so much that you hear – ‘Never be the same player.’ … Once you hear so much of that s***, you’ll have days here and there where you believe it. You know what I mean?

“I fell victim to that a lot during my three years in San Antonio.”

DeRozan said he felt “wiped off the map” and that going from deep playoff runs to struggling took a “toll” on him mentally. DeRozan has been a staunch advocate of mental health awareness.

The Spurs went 113-112 in DeRozan’s three seasons. They made one postseason appearance, which was after his first campaign.

“I had great games,” DeRozan said. “I developed in a lot of great ways as a basketball player, but in the same token, I just felt nonexistent for those years. It wasn’t like we was on TV, we wasn’t competing. There was so much to it that just – that was a struggle.

“I just felt like I was irrelevant.”

He would not be irrelevant in a second act. 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama lived up to his phenom billing as a rookie. DeRozan has proven to be a willing mentor.

Bulls Deemed ‘Smug Answer’ as DeMar DeRozan’s ‘Worst Landing Spot’

Hughes lists the Charlotte Hornets as the “worst landing spot” for DeRozan in free agency this offseason. However, the Bulls would have been his “smug answer” for that spot.

DeRozan is completing a three-year, $81.9 million contract and is eligible to sign a four-year contract worth $179 million this offseason. He can sign a three-year, $130 million extension up until June 30, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

DeRozan turned down the Bulls’ offer of a “two-year deal” with that $40 million price tag, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson in April.

“The Bulls would be happy to re-sign DeRozan on a two-year deal. DeRozan’s side obviously would covet more security,” Mayberry wrote on June 4. “The Bulls have a habit of liberally latching player options into contracts so that carrot could come into play with DeRozan’s deal as well.”

Perhaps that “carrot” will prove to be the ultimate difference maker.