DeMar DeRozan had himself a game last night … and the night before that … and the night before that … and, well, you get the point.
The 6th-leading scorer in the NBA is averaging a ridiculous 30.3 points per contest over his last eight games. He’s shot 56.7 percent from the field over that stretch, a mark that is only a few notches higher than his 50.6 percent field goal percentage on the season. If this clip holds, it would make for the second-best shooting season of his 13-year-long career (the best came two seasons ago when DeRozan shot 53.1 percent from the field for the San Antonio Spurs). But that’s merely a technicality.
There is no question what DeRozan has done this season will trump what he accomplished in 2019-20. The same can likely be said about the season where he averaged a career-high 27.3 points on a career-high 20.2 field goal attempts per game (2016-17). No matter where DeRozan’s stats end up in the ranks of his illustrious career, he is making a strong case for this to be the season we all consider his best. And all we need to do is watch a couple of clips to know why.
In his matchup with the Atlanta Hawks last night, DeRozan sank tough shot after tough shot on his way to his 9th 30-point game of the season. Atlanta may not be known for having a particularly stout defensive unit (25th), especially with so many missing bodies, but Bogdan Bogdanovic stuck to DeRozan’s hip well while Clint Capela helped protect the rim. None of that mattered, though.
Feast your eyes:
The Hawks did a great job guarding DeMar DeRozan on a handful of possessions last night … and it didn’t matter at all.
The NBA’s 6th-leading scorer is a footwork menace. You can tell he’s drilled these moves tirelessly. When he gets to his spots, it doesn’t matter who’s there. pic.twitter.com/4jf05Ftjxx
— Elias Schuster (@Schuster_Elias) December 28, 2021
Only two players average at least 10 field goal attempts per game in tight coverage (aka when a defender is within 2-4 feet of the player): DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Durant. The Bulls forward is averaging a 50.7 percent clip on those shots with Durant right behind at 50.4 percent, per NBA Stats.
DeRozan isn’t trying to be sneaky. If anything, the midrange assassin invites defenders to contest his shot as he attacks the same spots on the floor in relentless fashion. Most players know what DeRozan is going to try to do before he does it, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop it, especially when we consider he also shoots the 4th-most free-throws per game at 7.7. This is an ability only the best players have, which is why MVP-candidate Kevin Durant is stationed right next to him when we look at the league’s top contested bucket-makers. I’d also consider this as the ability that explains why DeRozan is the best 4th quarter scorer in the league.
DeRozan has turned himself into a footwork menace. There is no slowing him down or speeding him up. When he fades at the elbow or turns around at the baseline or pulls up at the free-throw line, he looks like he’s relying on a natural instinct. Put a brick wall in front of DeRozan that rises to the rafters, and I might bet money his well-trained mind finds a way to drop in through the net.
Don’t get me wrong, elements of this dominance have been inside DeRozan for years. The four-time All-Star has been one of the best mid-range scorers in the game for the past half-decade. However, he’s taken things to new heights this season with a career-high 50 percent on mid-range looks, and it’s allowed him to take over in a way that has pushed the Bulls into the top-4 of the NBA standings. Everything about it has been a joy to watch. Well, that is, if you aren’t guarding him.