Fantasy Basketball – DeMar DeRozan thrives alongside Zach LaVine
- December 2, 2022
- No Comment
2:00 p.m. ET
Andre Snelling’s ESPN
In his first season with the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan had what was arguably the best season of his career. He averaged a personal best of 27.9 PPG, was named an All-NBA Second Team, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting.
Could he repeat that success this season, his 14th, at the age of 33?
Before the season, I predicted that answer to be yes. I predicted DeRozan to average 27.1 PPG at 50.0 FG% and 87.0 FT%, 5.1 RPG and 5.0 APG.
In his first two games, he burst out like he was about to far exceed expectations, with back-to-back 30-point performances and averages of 34.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 6.0 RPG.
Then Zach LaVine made his season debut.
Over the next 12 games, DeRozan’s numbers would drop to 22.1 PPG (49.7 FFG%, 91.4 FT%), 3.6 RPG, and 3.7 APG. DeRozan would have 20 points or fewer in seven of those 12 games, including two nine-point single-digit efforts against the Hornets on November 2 and nine points against the Raptors on November 7.
Let’s unpack that a bit. LaVine had missed the first two games of the season as he continued to recover from knee surgery earlier in the year, and in his absence DeRozan had turned up. But when LaVine returned, there was a negative correlation between LaVine’s presence and DeRozan’s declining production:
LaVine debuted with 23 points and DeRozan only scored 13.
LaVine scored 28 points in his third game and DeRozan managed 17.
LaVine sat out the fourth game after his return and DeRozan was behind by 33 points.
Lavine’s season-high 30 points came in Game 10 at that stretch, and DeRozan hit a season-low nine points.
The pattern seemed clear and went beyond just dots. If you look at the above seven games in this section where DeRozan scored 20 or fewer points, you would see that LaVine averaged 23 in the games he played against DeRozan’s 14.9 PPG and 3.7 APG .5 PPG and 4.8 APG. In the other five games in that stretch, where DeRozan averaged 32.2 PPG and 3.6 APG, LaVine averaged 19.5 PPG and 3.0 APG in the games he played.
In the first 12 games after LeVine’s debut, when LaVine was heavily used, DeRozan’s numbers went into the tank. When LaVine was relatively underused, DeRozan shone.
But if DeRozan is struggling, if LaVine is playing well…why wasn’t that the case last season?
Last season, DeRozan’s crowning achievement, included a heavily used LaVine who averaged 24.4 PPG to 47.6 FG% and 4.5 APG. If DeRozan was able to thrive on the heavily used LaVine last season, why couldn’t he this season?
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The answer could be partially behind LaVine and the rest of the backcourt instead. Last season, Lonzo Ball was the point guard who started the campaign. The ball is as close as you can get to a 3-and-D point guard, a pass-first, pass-second player who made about 70% of his shots as a spot-up 3-pointer out of ball motion. The second key point guard early in the season was Alex Caruso, another underutilized guard who focused on defense. Ball and Caruso both got injured and missed half of last season, but when they were out, rookie Ayo Dosunmu became the starter and continued on their little-used kind. If anything, DeRozan and LaVine took on a larger role as crime initiators.
Fast-forward to the start of this season, and closer examination reveals the difference in this other sentry. With Ball still out, Dosunmu started with newly acquired Goran Dragic also taking on a bigger role. Across the 12 games we examined, Dosunmu averaged 11.6 PPG and 3.3 APG in 29.7 MPG, while Dragic averaged 10.2 PPG and 3.6 APG in 18.9 MPG. Thus, the Bulls point guard averaged nearly 23 points and 7 assists per game every 48 minutes during that stretch. That’s a lot more production at a lot higher usage than last season’s position and effectively prevented DeRozan from thriving in games where LaVine was nearing its normal usage level.
Around Nov. 16, however, the Bulls appeared to be regrouping as Dosunmu took a step back (8.7 PPG, 2.3 APG since Nov. 16) and Dragic fell almost completely off offense (3.5 PPG, 2 .3 APG in 13.5 MPG since). 16 Nov). Alex Caruso has taken on a bigger role, up to 26.0 MPG, 8.7 PPG and 3.1 APG (up from 4.3 PPG, 4.0 APG in 12 games before).
Suddenly, Caruso and Dosunmu are effectively repeating the point guard role from last season. And like clockwork, DeRozan has started producing consistently, even as LaVine plays every game.
In the seven games since November 16, DeRozan has averaged 31.1 PPG (53.5 FG%, 86.3 FT%) and 5.3 APG. He has scored at least 26 points in every game. There is still some correlation with LaVine’s output, but starting at a much higher level. LaVine has only two games under 20 during that stretch, a 4-point performance against the Magic and an 18-point game against the Bucks, and DeRozan had his two bests of 41 and 36 points, respectively. But conversely, even in the two games in which LaVine has scored 25 or more points, DeRozan still has 28 and 7 assists and 30 points and 6 assists, respectively. With an underused, defensively-focused point guard slot that leaves DeRozan and LaVine to shape the game and offense, their two best players can thrive.
This is excellent news for those interested in fantasy basketball from DeRozan and LaVine, but especially from DeRozan. LaVine’s performance still depends more on his health and finishing ability than his effort, with his 40.7% shots from the field keeping his averages low despite his 17.8 FGA/G this season. However, DeRozan shows he can absolutely replicate, if not better, the career numbers he posted a season ago. When the Bulls put the ball in his hands, he has a consistent 30 points/5 assists ability, with excellent shooting percentages at high volume to help in category leagues. DeRozan might flirt with late first round value in some league formats and has an easy top-20 expectation in pretty much every league.
So if you can trade him in for a lower value, or if you’re still planning on drafting your league in the coming weeks, remember that DeRozan has a production versus reputation profile that can earn you fantasy leagues.