Make no mistake — Lonzo Ball’s meniscus tear was the straw that broke the backbone of the Chicago Bulls’ 2021-22 season. However, the point guard was far from the only player to feel the cruel bite of the injury virus throughout the season.
Really, the team’s troubles started almost right in front of goal when former No. 4 overall winner Patrick Williams fell down from a dislocated wrist.
It was a problem that ultimately required surgery and a recovery time of more than four months. As a result, the Bulls were without their power forward for most of the season. In his place, head coach Billy Donovan moved Star Wing DeMar DeRozan to 4th place, and the veteran excelled in that role for the most part.
When Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney asked an Eastern Conference executive if DeRozan might play regular minutes at Power Forward in 2022-23, he received significant backlash for the concept.
For the first three quarters of the campaign, DeRozan looked like a Darkhorse MVP candidate as a four-man starter. And during his eight-game peak from Feb. 6-24, he averaged a whopping 38.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists while averaging a 63.4 effective field goal percentage.
According to the exec, however, it was overdoing it.
“He wasn’t the same player at the end of the year as he was in the first three or four months,” said the manager. “I’m convinced it’s because he was so exhausted from playing on the 4.”
The numbers seem to support this theory.
In his last 20 games, DeRozan has posted a below-average eFG% of 47.6%, and it’s been worse on the defensive side of the ball. During the same stretch, the Baller had the second-lowest D rating on the team at 120.4, a wide increase from 108.9 in his first 56 games.
The manager acknowledged that there was a time and place for DeRozan to confuse it with the big men. And the baller has clearly shown he can take advantage of mismatches and score a fair amount of points from this position, even if it’s not the ideal spot for him.
“He can do it in stretches and give him all the credit for going out there and doing it without complaining. He didn’t talk about it at all last year,” the manager said. “But you can’t ask him to play on the 4 as much as he did last year, he’s not big enough.”
With any luck, the cops won’t have to do that. Williams was finally able to return towards the end of last season and even set a series of bests to close out the year. And all signs indicate that he will return to his starting place again this autumn.
“If they have Williams fully healthy, that should go a long way in getting DeMar back to the 3 where he should be.”
All the better for DeRozan, who is no doubt trying to reinsert himself into the MVP conversation.