Give fans credit. Often criticized in activities such as voting for the NBA All-Star Game, they are right on the mark as far as Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan is concerned. The second set of updates on voting for the Feb. 20 event in Cleveland shows DeRozan running away from the field for one of the starting backcourt spots in the Eastern Conference.
Voting continues through Jan. 22, but DeRozan is nearing lock territory. DeRozan’s arrival in Chicago spurred a remarkable turnaround for a team that last made the playoffs in 2017. Even after a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 12, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference by 1.5 games and are 27–12. DeRozan’s renaissance dovetails nicely with the return of Chicago to relevance in the East.
DeMar DeRozan is in line for his 3rd All-Star start
DeMar DeRozan is a four-time NBA All-Star Game participant. But his last appearance was in 2018 when he was with the Toronto Raptors. DeRozan was a reserve in 2014 and 2016. He was voted in as a starter in 2017 and 2018.
He came to the Bulls in a sign-and-trade last summer after three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s averaging 26.0 points a game, his highest mark since 2016–17.
To say DeRozan’s impact in Chicago is a surprise is an understatement. An ESPN survey of offseason moves rated the Bulls’ signing of DeRozan tied for the worst.
But he’s filled the small-ball 4 role seamlessly in Chicago. He’s not necessarily a stretch-4; DeRozan is a career 28.5% shooter from 3-point range and this season’s average of 2.0 attempts per game is the third-highest of his 12-year career.
But he’s shooting 50.8% from 2-point range and a career-high 35.2% from deep. DeRozan does his work from mid-range, where he takes 30% of his shots and makes 54.9% from 10 to 16 feet. A quarter of his attempts are the bane of the analytics crowd (the deep 2-pointer), which he converts at a 43.6% clip.
In other words, coach Billy Donovan is letting DeRozan do his thing. It’s working.
Why is DeMar DeRozan on the NBA All-Star Game ballot in the backcourt?
In the latest voting update released by the NBA on Jan. 13, DeMar DeRozan has nearly 3 million votes. Second-place Young is at almost 1.6 million. DeRozan more than doubles the player’s tally in third place, Bulls teammate Zach LaVine.
Voting for the starters in the NBA All-Star Game changed in 2013 from the five traditional positions — two forwards, two guards, and a center — to a format in which three frontcourt players start alongside two players classified as backcourt guys (guards).
But it’s worth wondering why DeRozan is on the ballot in the backcourt. According to play-by-play data, the last time he played most of his minutes as a guard was 2017–18. The numbers indicate he hasn’t logged any time in the backcourt since 2017–18.
This season, estimates show DeRozan at the 4 78% of the time. He’s played the 3, small forward, 8% of his minutes, and spends 15% of his time playing center.
That’s an odd resume for a guard. But according to NBA correspondent Marc Stein’s tweet, there is a logical — if not necessarily rational — reason DeRozan is where he is on the ballot.
“The NBA listed him as a guard on the All-Star ballot because he has been listed as a guard throughout his career and still regards him as a guard who starts along [with] fellow guards Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball,” Stein wrote.
The old “it’s the way we always did it” defense comes through again.
Two Bulls are likely headed to the NBA All-Star Game
The Chicago Bulls last had two representatives in the NBA All-Star Game in 2016. Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol went to Toronto that year.
Last season, LaVine was the first Bulls All-Star since Butler in 2017. LaVine is almost sure to make a second straight appearance in the midseason(ish) showcase. He’s posting elite numbers for the fourth consecutive season, averaging 25.6 points on 54.2% shooting from inside the arc and 41.2% marksmanship behind it.
If the fan voting holds up, DeMar DeRozan should be the first Chicago player to start an NBA All-Star Game since Gasol in 2015.
But the fans comprise only half of the selection equation. Media voting is 25%, as is the balloting conducted among players.
In the voting for the Eastern Conference frontcourt spots, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets is the leading vote-getter with nearly 4.1 million. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers are in the other two starters’ spots.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors leads all players with nearly 4.5 million votes. Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is second among backcourt players. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers leads the frontcourt voting, then Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets and Andrew Wiggins of Golden State.
DeMar DeRozan has propelled the Chicago Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference and deserves the bouquets he’s receiving. That includes a trip to Cleveland to start the NBA All-Star Game.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.