Chicago Bulls: DeMar DeRozan making strong case for MVP

DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Following a crucial pair of back-to-back wins on the road against the Clippers and Lakers in the STAPLES Center, it’s hard to ignore the fact that DeMar DeRozan has gotten a head start on building a compelling case for MVP. DeRozan led the Chicago Bulls in scoring in both contests, averaging 36.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 5 rebounds across the two-game stint.

Teammate and fellow dynamic scoring threat Zach LaVine urged DeRozan to push for 40 points in the latter game against the Lakers, a feat DeMar has not achieved since the 2017-18 campaign. “He was trying to force me to get 40 tonight,” DeRozan tells K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports, “I told him I was too tired.”

The camaraderie we’ve witnessed between the two stars helps explain how this new-look Bulls roster has quickly developed healthy team chemistry. Chicago looks to DeRozan for leadership and buckets in the clutch but doesn’t necessarily depend on it. This is something that one cannot say about any team DeRozan has played for in the past.

As the roster is currently constructed, DeRozan has been granted a complimentary cast of players that suit his strengths and mask his weaknesses. LaVine and Nikola Vucevic are each three-level scoring threats that can space the floor, while Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have made for a monstrous duo defensively on the perimeter. This has allowed DeMar to hone in on the areas where he excels best, and it has shown.

The Chicago Bulls’ hot start can be accredited in large part to DeMar DeRozan, as his early performance should garner MVP considerations.

DeRozan is averaging 26.9 points per game — good for third-best in the NBA — while leading the Chicago Bulls to an impressive 10-4 record. This hot start has the Bulls sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, just half a game back from the leading Washington Wizards. DeRozan also leads the NBA in points scored in the 4th quarter (among players who have played at least 10 games).

This helps explain why Chicago has been such a dynamic team in the clutch, as the Bulls are currently second in the NBA in both points scored and plus/minus in the fourth quarter.

Despite having the sixth-most difficult strength of schedule thus far, the Bulls have managed to achieve a top-ten ranked offense and defense. With six of the team’s ten wins coming over teams who qualified for last year’s playoffs, it appears the Bulls are here to stay.

Perhaps most impressively, DeRozan has shown a willingness to continue developing his game even as he enters his 13th year in the league. He is currently shooting 37.1 percent from deep this year while taking 2.5 three-point attempts per game.

Prior to this season, the highest percentage DeRozan had ever achieved from three (while shooting at least two per game) was 31 percent. Considering several national media outlets including ESPN named DeRozan as “The worst value contract“, I believe it’s time for them to own up their mistake and give his success the attention it deserves.

As of November 12, the Kia NBA MVP ladder consists of:

  1. Kevin Durant
  2. Stephen Curry
  3. Nikola Jokic
  4. Paul George
  5. DeMar DeRozan
  6. Jimmy Butler
  7. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  8. Rudy Gobert
  9. Ja Morant
  10. Joel Embiid

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With wins over the first and fourth-ranked players on this list already, DeMar’s impressive trip to LA should be enough to propel him even higher up these rankings. It’s worth noting that LaVine also features in the next five up, alongside proven stars like Luka Doncic and Chris Paul.