The Chicago Bulls are flying high early this season thanks to an 11-5 start. And one of the most important cogs in these new-look Bulls is DeMar DeRozan. Most of DeRozan's offensive production has come in the expected ways such as conversion rates well above league average at the rim and in the mid-range.
However, one thing that most didn't expect was his improved three-point shooting. Across DeRozan's 12 year career, the 2021-22 season represents his second-best in three-point percentage and his third-highest in three-point attempts per game. While many are writing this off as simply a hot start, diving into the numbers suggests they may be more sustainable than we think.
DeMar DeRozan's Deep Shooting Deep Dive
Let's start by looking at the conclusion and work our way back to the how and why. DeMar DeRozan's improved shooting numbers this season are a result of an improved shot diet, not a random outlier.
Coming into this season, DeRozan was a career 28.1% shooter from deep. But looking at just that number leaves you blind to a career of intriguing contextual results. A majority of an NBA players' three-point shots will come in one of two forms, off the dribble or catch-and-shoot.
Luckily for us, with Synergy's tracking data we can break down DeRozan's 1,324 three-point shot attempts into these two categories. 265 of DeRozan's career attempts are considered off the dribble, of which he's made just 46 or ~18%. In contrast, DeMar has made 294 of his 928 catch-and-shoot attempts at a 31.7% conversion rate.
In addition, we can see how many of those catch-and-shoot attempts he was guarded on. Coming into this season that number was 61.7%.
The Chicago Diet
So far this season, the Bulls have catered DeRozan's shot diet toward his strengths as a shooter. Firstly, instead of his career average of 22.5% of his shots coming off the dribble, that number has dropped to just 14.3% this season. In contrast to his career average of 61.7% of his catch-and-shoot attempts coming contested, just 47.2% have this year.
All of this has paid dividends in DeRozan's results as a shooter. He's shooting 13-for-36 (36.1%) on his catch-and-shoot attempts this season. While his off-the-dribble number is still a dismal 16.7%, those shots only account for six of his total attempts.
DeRozan's 33.3% mark for the season doesn't sound super impressive, but the league as a whole has seen a massive reduction in three-point shooting percentage. The league average of 34.3% is the worst since 1999. As a result, DeRozan is just 1% below league average three-point shooting.
There is also reason to believe that he can maintain this increased shooting percentage. The former Raptor has shot above 32% on the catch in four of his previous eight seasons. And in 2016, he shot an astounding 39-for-93 or 41.9% on the catch across an entire season! It's unlikely that he'll shoot much better than his current 33.3% mark, but there is also reason to believe he won't drop much lower either.
This season, the Bulls and DeMar DeRozan have soared far past most pre-season expectations. One category that many fans may have expected to regress was DeRozan's early-season shooting. However, when looking at the numbers a little deeper, this may not be the case.
The diet of shots that DeRozan has taken in Chicago has made the most of his three-point shooting ability. And given his results in prior seasons, his early success this year may be more sustainable than we think.