The summer of 2021 was a magical time to be a fan of the Chicago Bulls. Done with the losing ways of the last half-decade and poor management of John Paxson and Gar Forman, the Bulls' new head honchos Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley got to work in re-shaping this roster to be a truly competitive team. That plan included signing Alex Caruso, dealing for Lonzo Ball, and most importantly, acquiring DeMar DeRozan.
Chicago held high hopes for DeRozan when he first came to town, dealing multiple draft picks and signing him to a hefty $85 million deal. This was viewed as a risky gambit by the national media, but it ended up being a smashing success. DeRozan has earned All-Star honors in both of his first two seasons in Chicago, and even an All-NBA nod on the way to becoming the de facto leader of this team.
In 180 games for the Bulls thus far, DeMar has averaged an impressive 25.6 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting well above his career averages, tallying shooting splits of 49.7% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. As a result, DeRozan has punched his ticket to becoming the best free agent acquisition in Bulls franchise history, with only Pau Gasol even coming close to the level of success DeMar has achieved with the Bulls.
Despite all this, Bulls fans appear determined to trade the star forward away. I'm not innocent in this either, as I've also advocated for Chicago to kickstart a rebuild by trading DeRozan in the past.
On paper, the justification to trade away the Bulls' best player makes sense. He's 34 years old and not getting any younger, he's on an expiring contract, and Chicago could extract a few desperately needed future assets from a current contender by trading him away.
The Bulls need DeMar DeRozan more than anyone wants to admit.
DeRozan keeps finding ways to prove that trading him away would be a massive miscalculation on the front office's behalf. Although he was likely signed with the intention of being a supporting piece beside fellow All-Star Zach LaVine, it's clear that DeMar is the best player on this roster and the one the locker room looks to for leadership.
Whether that means on the court in the clutch moments of a close game, or behind the scenes as a mentor to Chicago's young core looking to continue making strides in their development, DeRozan has been the quintessential leader that any competitive squad would love to have around.
670 The Score's Cody Westerlund had the opportunity to speak to Bulls head coach Billy Donovan following the team's most recent win over the Cavaliers. "Regarding this moment, Billy Donovan called DeMar DeRozan 'special' for the sacrifices he's made, saying DeRozan has stylistically sacrificed to help others play better and always been receptive to what Donovan has asked, such as getting up court quicker. Donovan appreciates it," says Westerlund.
DeRozan has achieved impressive offensive box plus/minus scores in each of his three seasons with the Bulls and has even avoided posting a negative box/plus/minus in his last two seasons. Players with his skill set just don't grow on trees, and it's clear to see he's had a positive impact on the win column. Now that the Bulls are playing better than ever in the absence of Zach LaVine, the best plan of action might simply be riding this thing out and seeing where DeMar takes us.
This hot stretch has potentially reignited hopes of DeRozan signing a contract extension this summer. The last time the Bulls spoke to DeMar about an extension, it didn't appear to go all that well. He was reportedly unhappy with the team's direction and disagreed with the money and years on the table.
DeRozan has spoken highly of Chicago during his time here, however, so if the Bulls can continue their winning ways, I wouldn't be shocked to see DeMar recommit to being the leader this team has lacked for so very long.