After yet another incredible performance on Sunday night, DaMar DeRozan has proved something to Bulls fans. He is the best free-agent acquisition in Bulls’ history.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, DeRozan came to Chicago on a three-year, $85 million deal in a sign-and-trade agreement with the Spurs. DeRozan had picked the Bulls through a true free-agent process and the trade aspect was a tactic to dump salary.
Best Bulls Free Agents
The Bulls have typically found their stars in the draft. Notable selections include Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah.
Scottie Pippen came to Chicago in a draft-day trade and eventually re-signed with the Bulls on a discount deal. His re-signing involved less risk than adding a true free agent because the Bulls already knew what they were getting.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Toni Kukoc was another Bulls’ draft pick who re-signed. Again, it was a low-risk move.
Additionally, Dennis Rodman was acquired in a trade with the Spurs.
There aren’t many notable Bulls’ free-agent signings to dig through. Starting in the 1990s era, Ron Harper and Steve Kerr come to mind.
Harper averaged a mere 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game for his career. His Bulls years coincided with his statistical fall-off. Harper was primarily an accessory to Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. His other championships came on the tails of Kobe Bryant’s and Shaquille O’Neal’s efforts.
As for Steve Kerr, he could be a future Hall of Famer when looking at his career body of work. He was undoubtedly clutch, consistently hitting big shots and assisting on some of Jordan’s buzzer-beating highlights. But again, the stats aren’t there. His non-Bulls championships came with the Tim Duncan-led Spurs and from the bench as head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
Other Bulls’ noteworthy signings include Bill Wennington and John Paxson. Both were solid reserve pieces, but neither could put a chokehold on a game.
The 2010s era Bulls’ signings have better stats, but their respective tenures in Chicago did not include peak-of-stardom years. Carlos Boozer averaged 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds for his career. While nearly averaging a double-double is an impressive feat, his two All-Star seasons came with the Jazz. When the Bulls signed Boozer in 2010, he was the consolation prize for missing out on all the big-name free agents. He was an important element of the Derrick Rose-led teams, but Boozer was never a significant game-changer. His underachievement in Chicago became evident when Rose was sidelined with various knee injuries.
Pau Gasol was the “best” signing of the Gar Forman/John Paxson era. The 7-footer averaged 17.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game during his two seasons with the Bulls. Both campaigns were All-Star-caliber. His lack of a legitimate impact on the franchise was less about Gasol and more because of how the Bulls were transitioning. Gasol was around for the last year of Tom Thibodeau and the beginning of Fred Hoiberg’s tenure. His presence on a healthier and younger Rose-era team would have put the Bulls as a likely lock atop the Eastern Conference. Still, Gasols’s best years came alongside Kobe Bryant on the Lakers.
DeMar DeRozan came to the Bulls with no previous ties. The national media overwhelmingly doubted DeRozan’s ability to fit in with Zach LaVine. Some outlets went as far as calling him the worst signing of the offseason.
DeRozan’s Story of Averages
So far this season, DeRozan has been nothing short of marvelous. Bulls fans can feel safe about calling this signing a huge win even with its small sample size. DeRozan averages 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists throughout his career.
To begin his Bulls tenure, he is demolishing those figures. DeRozan is putting up 26.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in 2021-22. He’s shooting 49.8% from the field (second-best mark of his career), 33.3% from three (also second-best), and 88.8% from the free-throw line (career-high). By averages alone, DeRozan’s numbers are the best of any Bulls’ free-agent acquisition.
DeRozan’s Clutch Factor
Beyond his impressive per-game averages, DeRozan has a clutch factor. He is currently the best fourth-quarter scorer in the NBA, averaging 8.2 points on 53.8% shooting in the final frame. The second-best in that category is Giannis Antetokounmpo at 7.3.
DeRozan has been fearless all year, but he took it to another level on Sunday. Without LaVine, DeRozan went toe-to-toe with LeBron James. Of course, the cherry on top was DeRozan burying the game-changing shot in James’s face.
DeRozan’s Free Throws
Another area in which DeRozan has excelled is getting to the free-throw line. He ranks fourth in the league with 7.8 attempts per game and third in made attempts at 7.0.
If teams can somehow find a way to stop him, his elite passing ability allows him to get the ball to an open teammate. His scoring prowess has drawn plenty of double-teams. That defensive strategy enables corners and cutters to be open. DeRozan will inevitably be an All-Star could potentially collect even more prestigious accolades if he maintains this level of performance.
Bulls fans have tabbed DeRozan as the team’s go-to guy, especially when LaVine is off the floor. On Sunday night, there were chants that hadn’t echoed through the United Center since Derrick Rose graced the Madhouse’s hardwood.
Only time will tell if DeMar DeRozan lives up to these lofty expectations. Looking at Bulls’ history and DeRozan’s resume, there is already enough evidence that he is the Bulls’ best free-agent acquisition in franchise history.
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