DeMar DeRozan is heading to the Windy City.
As first reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Chicago Bulls have acquired DeRozan from the San Antonio Spurs in a sign-and-trade. In return, the Spurs received Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round pick and two second-round picks from the Bulls.
Sources: Bulls are sending Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round pick and two second-round picks to Spurs for DeMar DeRozan. https://t.co/j2IzbpFML0- Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 3, 2021
The Bulls continue to be aggressive. At last season's trade deadline, they gave up quite a bit - Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks - for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic. It wasn't enough for them to make the playoffs (some of which had to do with Zach LaVine entering the league's health and safety protocols near the end of the season), but they've made two big moves to open free agency, adding both Lonzo Ball and DeRozan in separate sign-and-trades.
DeRozan is a fascinating get for the Bulls. He hasn't been named an All-Star since he was traded from the Toronto Raptors in 2018, but he's still one of the league's better players at his position. He's coming off of a season in which he led the Spurs in scoring with 21.6 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field while averaging a career-best 6.9 assists on only 2.0 turnovers.
DeRozan has long been one of the league's best one-on-one scorers, capable of getting his against almost anyone. He's not a 3-point shooter, but he's an elite midrange scorer - he shot 47.1 percent from that distance on high volume last season - as well as an athletic and crafty finisher at the rim.
With DeRozan on the roster, Chicago is now home to two big-time one-on-one scorers. According to NBA.com, only 12 players averaged more points than DeRozan (3.6) in isolation last season, and he ranked in the 96th percentile with 1.20 points per possession. LaVine wasn't far behind him, ranking 20th with 2.7 isolation points per game and in the 92nd percentile with 1.14 points per possession.
With the two of them on the same team, there could be a lot of mismatch hunting in Chicago, especially in crunch time.
DeRozan is also an efficient scorer out of the pick-and-roll, one who has shared the court with a variety of big men in his career - Chris Bosh, Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and LaMarcus Aldridge, to name a few. It shouldn't take long for him and Vucevic, who scored the fourth-most points in the league as the roll man last season, to establish chemistry.
DeRozan feasts against drop coverages with his trusty midrange pull-up...
...while Vucevic is a threat to pop and roll.
It helps that DeRozan and Vucevic have been teammates before, as they were both freshmen at USC in 2008-09. Vucevic didn't play all that much (11.0 minutes per game) during DeRozan's one and only collegiate season, but there is at least some familiarity between the two.
The player who should benefit the most from the addition of DeRozan is LaVine, who has seen his usage rate skyrocket since being traded to the Bulls. It could take them some time to figure out how to play off of one another since they're both at their best when they have the ball in their hands - ditto for Vucevic, who is a gifted playmaker out of the post and elbows - but LaVine won't have to create as much offensively, allowing him to pick and choose his spots more.
DeRozan's reluctance to even shoot 3s could hurt Chicago's spacing, but it should have enough shooting around him to still make it work. LaVine has always been a good shooter off the catch and is a threat to score off of screens, Ball has canned 37.6 percent of his 3-point attempts over the last two seasons, and only three centers have made more 3-pointers than Vucevic (422) over the last four seasons.
We might not be looking at an elite offence, but the Bulls should be much better than they were last season when they ranked 21st in offensive efficiency.
The other end of the court is a bigger question mark.
Quite simply, the Bulls are now built around three offensive-minded players who are limited defenders and gave up one of their better defenders in Young to get DeRozan. (As noted by ESPN's Kevin Pelton, who gave the Bulls a D- for this deal, DeRozan's teams have a history of being quite a bit worse defensively with him on the court. Same with LaVine, although he made some encouraging strides defensively last season). While they can still surround them with the likes of Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams, it puts a lot of pressure on those three to prop them up defensively.
Those limitations might not matter as much in the regular season, but it could become an issue in the playoffs should the Bulls make it that far.
It's safe to assume that the Bulls will continue to address that problem, both in free agency and ahead of next season's trade deadline as they gear up for a playoff run. For now, they're banking on talent helping them end their postseason drought and assert one of the league's most storied franchises as a force to be reckoned with again.
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