DeMar DeRozan Silences Doubters Saying He Can’t Play Alongside Zach LaVine on the Chicago Bulls: ‘It’s Not Rocket Science’

DeMar DeRozan‘s decision to join the Chicago Bulls was one of the more surprising developments of the offseason. The four-time All-Star was the focus of a Sign-and-Trade involving the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, his team from the last three seasons. DeRozan will be paid $85 million over the next three years to help guide the Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Not everyone sees DeRozan as a great fit in Chicago, however. Experts have questioned how the 32-year-old will fit on the Bulls, particularly alongside All-Star Zach LaVine. But DeRozan thinks playing with LaVine and the rest of his new teammates won’t be nearly as difficult as some people expect.

The DeMar DeRozan signing received mixed reviews

Even at 32, DeRozan is still capable of scoring at a high level. The former USC Trojan has averaged 20 or more points in eight straight seasons, doing the majority of his damage in the mid-range. He also showcased his playmaking ability last season with San Antonio, averaging a career-best 6.9 assists. Finally, DeRozan has been able to avoid major injuries, playing 60 games or more in all 12 of his NBA seasons.

But with the pros come cons, particularly his new contract and fit on the younger Bulls.

“If [the Bulls] had paid half as much — $14 million a year — who was outbidding them?,” wrote John Hollinger of The Athletic. “Clippers and Lakers only had the taxpayer midlevel exception. The Knicks quickly burned through their cap space to lock in the six seed for the next three years. The only teams with the space to make a move here were Oklahoma City, which isn’t rebuilding around a 32-year-old, and DeRozan’s own team in San Antonio, which didn’t seem to be in that big a rush to bring him back.”

As far as fit goes, DeRozan is a player who is at his best with the ball in his hands. It’s similar to LaVine, who had a high usage rate and averaged a career-high 27.4 points in 2020-21. DeRozan is also a non-factor as a three-point shooter, which could hurt the team’s spacing. Defensively, both DeRozan and LaVine have their deficiencies, averaging negative defensive box plus-minus ratings in their respective careers.

DeRozan is not worried about how he’ll fit with Zach LaVine

During Bulls Media Day, DeRozan gave some insight into how he expects to play alongside LaVine. But unlike some of the critics, the veteran sees no issue with his new situation.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s not rocket science at all,” said DeRozan. “He [LaVine] has a passion for the game and a love and appreciation to want to win. The knowledge and everything I’ve gained over my years being in the league and being in different situations and seeing success and playing with all types of players, I understand what it takes. So for me, it’s just about us putting in the hard work and understanding each other. Once we unlock that and figure that part out with hard work and just being consistent starting tomorrow, it’s going to go a long way.”

“It’s basketball at the end of the day,” DeRozan continued. “You put me out there, I’m going to figure out whatever needs to be figured out for us to be successful. I don’t overthink it. I think that’s when a lot of people get in trouble, when you try to overthink this game. It’s a simple game. I don’t get caught up in, ‘I got to do this, do this.’ Whatever it takes to win, that’s all I care about.”

DeRozan has played with All-Star teammates in the past. He spent multiple years sharing a backcourt with Kyle Lowry on the Toronto Raptors and dishing to LaMarcus Aldridge on the Spurs. He’ll now have two in Chicago with LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, his old teammate at USC.

How much can DeMar DeRozan improve the Chicago Bulls?

Even if the contract is a little steep, DeRozan certainly makes things easier for the 26-year-old LaVine. DeMar can pick up some of the offensive slack, allowing the athletic guard to have more energy on the defensive end, where improvements are desperately needed.

Additionally, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago noted how when LaVine was off of the court last season, the Bulls posted an offensive rating of 104.8. For context, the Oklahoma City Thunder were dead last in the NBA with a 104.3 offensive rating. Adding DeRozan, along with a full season of Vucevic, should help that number rise considerably.

Furthermore, the Bulls were a young team in previous seasons. The 32-year-old DeRozan will add a dose of veteran mentorship for some of Chicago’s less-experienced players. One of them, the 20-year-old Patrick Williams who Chicago selected fourth overall in 2020, has already seen DeRozan’s positive influence at work.

“From what I can see, the things that he does in the game are exactly what he does in practice, exactly what he does in pickup,” Williams said. “He’s just meticulous about getting to his spots, doing what he’s comfortable doing. You’re not going to speed him up. You’re not going to get him out of his comfort zone. I think that’s something that I can definitely learn from.”

DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls may have been a strange fit at first. But there’s plenty of optimism in the Windy City.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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