Chicago Bulls: The case for DeMar DeRozan for MVP

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Just take a look at how Bleacher Report described new Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan after his three-year, $85 million contract.

“You’ll see a 32-year-old who’s a poor fit with his new club and limited in worrisome ways for someone aging past his prime.”

In their eyes, he was the worst free-agent signing this season.

Funny enough, he went from the worst to the best free-agent signing in just a couple of months. That’s because DeRozan is in the midst of a career year at the age of 32.

The veteran is averaging a career-high 28.3 points to go along with 5.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He’s also shooting 51.7 percent from the field, the second-best of his career, and 36.5 percent from behind the arc, the best of his career.

It’s an MVP year for DeRozan and on top of his phenomenal season, the Chicago Bulls are winning games. The Bulls are currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 39-22 record. Last season, Chicago went just 31-41.

He totally turned around this Bulls franchise. There’s a reason why no one can buy a Bulls jersey in Chicago, they are all sold out.

As a result, his impressive season should not only put him in the MVP conversation but should have him as the frontrunner.

Why should Chicago Bulls’ star DeMar DeRozan be the MVP?

For starters, DeRozan ranks fourth in the NBA in points per game (28.3). He is simply scoring the basketball at a high level.

Although he is lacking in the double-double (2) and triple-double (0) department this season, he’s making up for it in other categories by breaking records.

He became the first player in NBA history to score 35 points on 50 percent or better shooting in eight straight games. Michael Jordan never did that, Lebron James never did that, Wilt Chamberlain never did that.

DeRozan also became just the seventh player in NBA history to 35+ points in eight straight games. He joins Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and James Harden.

Furthermore, the veteran has scored 30+ points in 10 straight games dating back to Feb. 4. DeRozan is just one game behind the franchise record for most consecutive 30 point performances, which is held by Jordan.

These are not the only records that he has broken.

This season, there have been 10 buzzer-beaters, DeRozan has two of them. The first one came on New Year’s Eve when he hit a one-legged three-pointer against the Indiana Pacers. Then, the following day, he hit a corner three while pump faking two defenders against the Washington Wizards at the buzzer.

DeRozan became the first player in NBA history to hit back-to-back buzzer-beaters on consecutive days.

He has been clutch for the Bulls down the stretch all season long, which is another advantage that DeRozan has in the MVP race.

As it stands now, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic along with DeRozan are in a tight race for the award.

But, none of them have been more efficient than DeRozan in “clutch” time.

The NBA defines clutch time as “any game time when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or any overtime period.”

Nothing speaks MVP more than being the clutch gene for your team in the final minutes and DeRozan is among the best in that category.

First off, his plus/minus on the court in clutch time is the best amongst the other MVP candidates. DeRozan leads them with a +1.7, while Embiid (+0.7), Jokic (+0.6), and Antetokounmpo (+0.2) all trail him by a pretty significant margin.

Additionally, DeRozan leads them all in clutch time offensive ratings (122.2), once again by a big margin. Jokic is second with 107.0, followed by Embiid with 106.7 and Antetokounmpo last with 101.4.

His offensive rating has propelled him to score 124 points while shooting 52.9 percent in the clutch this season, only behind Embiid’s 126 points on 50 percent shooting. It’s also important to note that Zach LaVine ranks ninth in clutch scoring with 78.

This has helped the Bulls win the second-most close games in the league with 21 while having the third-best offensive efficiency in the clutch (120.1).

As a matter of fact, as the Bulls keep winning, this will only help DeRozan’s MVP case.

Over the last 20 seasons, 18 of the last 20 MVP winners helped their team finish top two in the conference. Further than that, 19 of the last 20 MVP winners finished with one of the top three records in the conference.

The only MVP to not lead their team to a top-three seed was the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017 during Russell Westbrook’s MVP season. However, he is an exception as he averaged an astounding 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. Westbrook did something that was only done one other time in history, finishing the season averaging a triple-double.

Essentially, finishing as the top two seed could help DeRozan’s case. As it stands now, the Bulls hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Assuming they stay at that spot or higher, DeRozan could be in luck.

Furthermore, if the season ended today, the 76ers would hold the three seed. Jokic was the MVP last year as he led the Nuggets to the three seed.

But besides Jokic’s MVP in 2021 and Westbrook’s MVP in 2017, the last time an MVP won the award while their team held a seed lower than second was in 1988 when Michael Jordan won it while the Bulls were the three seed.

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Assuming this stays the same, this would knock out both Antetokounmpo and Jokic in the race, whose teams are currently fifth and sixth in their respective conferences.  They are having fantastic seasons, but nothing on the level of Westbrook’s in 2017. Consequently, their record/seeding will affect their chances.

If the Bulls can get one of those top two seeds in the East and DeRozan continues to play at an elite level, the former USC star should be bringing home the hardware trophy.