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DeMar DeRozan is a Midrange Assassin

DeMar DeRozan Appreciation Post

The Chicago Bulls are running and it’s really fun to watch. Sure, they got trucked by the Golden State Warriors, but that’s not a huge loss, considering how good Stephen Curry and Crew are. However, they responded nicely by going into Los Angeles and beating the Clippers and Lakers in a Staples Center back-to-back on Sunday and Monday.

One of the main reasons they are playing so well is the super smart addition of DeMar DeRozan.

“DeMarvelous,” as Stacey King calls him on NBC Sports Chicago broadcasts, is playing some of his best ball in his 13th NBA season. He currently sits at fourth in the league in points per game at a 26.9 clip, just behind Paul George. If he can maintain that pace, it’ll be his second best season filling up buckets all around the league. In the 2016-17 season, while playing with the Toronto Raptors, DeRozan averaged 27.3 ppg. That season, his Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) was 47.7% and this season he has upped it to a near career-best 53.4%.

He’s a great running mate for Zach LaVine.

With LaVine averaging 25.9 ppg, they are the highest scoring duo in the NBA. The best part, right now, is that DeRozan takes the pressure off LaVine. That is particularly important, since LaVine is playing through the pain of a small ligament tear in the thumb of his non-shooting hand. It’s not that LaVine is being demoted to secondary scoring option, but that now the Bulls have two legitimate primary scorers. They both have the ball in their hands a fair amount, with usage rates of 30.2% for DeRozan and 30.7% for LaVine. Yet, that is the lowest for LaVine in three seasons and the highest for DeRozan since that 2016-17 season. Essentially, they both get their touches, but can more fluidly fight through low-grade, nagging injuries. It also doesn’t hurt to have Lonzo Ball feeding them on immaculately run fast breaks.

Back to me gushing about DeRozan like he’s a god I just discovered.

As a middle-aged Gen X’er, I am not always totally in love with the so-called Three Point Era. Sure, if you’re Curry or Lillard, go right ahead and chuck up those logo shots all you want. I don’t like that everyone thinks they can do it. It also turns the game into, basically, a two-dimensional offensive schematic. Dudes are either huckin’ up threes or someone is getting a dunk; on a break or an alley-oop. What I’m getting at is almost no one seems to focus on the midrange game. Then there is DeMarvelous. Dude lives in the midrange like it’s holy ground… errr, holy hardwood. He’s shooting a career second-best 51.0% from the field on 18.8 shots per game. Of those shots, 16.3 per game are of the two-point variety, at a 53.1% clip. Both of those are far above his career averages, 46.1% FG% and 48.0% 2P% respectively. There’s certainly some small sample size noise in there and I respect that, but watching a fair number of their games you can see a really smart shooter, too. Of all his field goals, 86.7% are two-pointers. Contrast that with Curry, who drains threes for 65.8% of all his made field goals!! For DeRozan, he shoots 28.5% of all his shots from 10-16 feet and makes 53.3% of them.

Why do I think the midrange game is still important?

First of all, If you are shooting from an average distance of 12.6 feet on all your shot attempts, you are bound to see more contact. This is doubly true when you consider the rule changes about drawing contact. The “unnatural basketball movements” seem to be most endemic to long range shooters with step-back moves.

Cue the James Harden montage. (Not really)

With very similar percentages from the line (87.3% for DeRozan and 86.2% for Harden), it does make a difference when you get to the line two more times per game. Secondly, the three quite often results in defensive rebounds with very few offensive players in the paint ready to rebound. Often, the offense is already running back to be on defense as the three is released. On the other hand, if you’re shooting from midrange, you automatically have more potential offensive rebounders in and around the paint. Lastly, because less players have a midrange game, this creates more problems for defenses to juggle dealing with when a guy like DeRozan is on the court. As an interesting side note, DeRozan is not shooting more threes, but he is making them at a career-high 37.1%. Essentially, he’s harder to guard than ever, because he has polished that weapon to complement his deadly midrange game.

More on that. Let’s check out a shot chart, shall we?

Author Screenshot; courtesy StatMuse

On the season, DeRozan is shooting 11.6% above league average for the zones in the 10-16 foot range. More importantly, he rarely takes the shots he’s not good at. That would be the left corner three and the outer reaches of the midrange off the right elbow just beneath the three-point line. In my humble opinion, this validates my claim that he is a smart shooter. Not that I was too worried about being challenged on that claim.

California homecoming.

As mentioned above, the Bulls swept the floor of the Staples Center with the Lakers and Clippers on Sunday and Monday. DeRozan, who is from Compton, supposedly almost had a deal with the Lakers in the offseason. That was before they opted to trade for Russell Westbrook. Number 11 went into his hometown and just wrecked shop. He averaged 36.5 points on 69.2% shooting all to show out in front of the hometown fans. I’d be curious what level of regret the Lakers front office has for choosing Westbrook over DeRozan. Thankfully, he’s playing for a team I like.

One last mention of Curry, but I swear I’m not hatin’ on the guy.*

So far in the season, there are only 10 players under 6’7” with an eFG% of 50% or higher and at least 400 minutes played. If you sort by Win Shares, Curry is tops at 2.5 and guess who is right behind him at 2.4? That’s right, DeMarvelous DeRozan the Midrange Assassin. So, enjoy watching this Bulls team, I know I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole team, but DeRozan has been a special treat to watch.

*Curry is awesome and I’m really not hatin’ on him. Harden on the other hand?

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