The NBA MVP debate is kicking into full swing as we approach the end of the 2021-22 regular season, and as is often the case it’s becoming quite unbearable given the strong arguments for a number of players. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are widely viewed as the top candidates, with others like Luka Doncic, Devin Booker and Ja Morant on the fringes of the conversation behind those top guys.
Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan was part of this conversation earlier this season, when he was putting up historic stats and breaking records set by the likes of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. With the Bulls holding the No. 1 spot in the East for a while, DeRozan was in position to get some real MVP love if he could mostly keep up his play (he was always going to cool down at least a bit)) and the team success sustained.
We know what has happened since.
The Bulls have fallen apart since the All-Star break, and DeRozan’s efficiency has noticeably dipped. This has quieted any talk of DeRozan being a legitimate MVP candidate, and the MVP odds at DraftKings reflect this. DeRozan is tied for seventh with Jayson Tatum in MVP odds at +25000. Perhaps he still gets a few votes here and there for helping turn this Bulls team around after years of suck, but he’s not a threat to win and probably won’t finish in the top five.
Despite this, and despite the flaws of DeRozan and this Bulls roster, it truly has been a pleasure to watch him go to work this season. After the acquisition of DeRozan caught so much flak from experts, he set out to prove those doubters wrong. While some of the critics have been proven right about the Bulls, DeRozan has been better than we could have ever expected.
Even with the recent downturn in his numbers (50-point game against the Clippers aside), the 32-year-old is still averaging 28.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 50.3% from the field and 35.5% from 3-point range. His mid-range mastery and crunch-time heroics have evoked MJ himself. He leads the NBA in total points scored this season and is blowing away the competition in fourth-quarter points. Think about all the games the Bulls threw away in recent years, and now think about DeRozan’s calming presence and game-winners this season, putting them in position for a top-six berth in the Eastern Conference.
Sure, DeRozan can sometimes get too ball-hoggy and his defense has slipped to dreadful levels over the course of the season. Yes, the Bulls can’t beat an elite team to save their lives and are looking like a first-round exit, with big questions coming on the roster in the offseason because of the roster construction.
But DeRozan’s performance has helped bring the Bulls back to relevance after GarPax dragged the franchise into the mud. The hope is that will help them continue to take step forwards and become a legitimate contender again. Who knows how much elite basketball DeRozan has left in the tank, but he should be able to age somewhat gracefully because of how he has mastered his craft.
Getting DeMar DeRozan was totally worth it, and his season should be celebrated no matter how things end.