Milwaukee Bucks playoff opponent spotlight: DeMar DeRozan

Mar 22, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday. Chicago Bulls: DeMar DeRozan
Mar 4, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

When the playoff matchups were officially set and we found out that the Milwaukee Bucks would face the Chicago Bulls, it was seen as a walkover series for the defending champs.

The Bucks went 4-0 against their division rival and the Bulls infamously went 3-20 against the top eight seeds in either conference this season. Chicago is still a top-six playoff team that had a ton of early-season success and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A big reason for their early-season success and the guy who kept them afloat through all of their injuries? DeMar DeRozan. He’s had some monster games against the Bucks this season and presents an interesting matchup challenge for the reigning champs’ wing defenders.

DeMar DeRozan’s career-best season at a glance

There really isn’t much debate that this past season was the best of DeRozan’s 13-year career as he was getting recognition as a top-five candidate for Most Valuable Player at times, should comfortably make his third All-NBA team, and was named an All-Star for the first time since 2017-18 as a starter.

In his first season with the Bulls after coming over in a sign-and-trade with the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan played in 76 games and averaged 27.9 points (career-high) on 59 percent true shooting, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 36 minutes per game.

He shot 52 percent on over 18 2-point attempts per game, a career-best 35.2 percent on nearly two 3s a night and nearly 88 percent from the line on almost eight attempts.

After years of being known as an inefficient scorer, DeRozan has posted three straight seasons of 59 percent true shooting or better after never being above 56 before that.

He had a streak in February of 10 games with 30 or more points and an absurd eight-game streak where he scored 35 or more points on 50 percent or better shooting. In that eight-game span, DeRozan averaged 38.4 points on 68 percent true shooting. It was one of the craziest displays of shot-making I’ve seen.

He has also improved as a passer and playmaker in the last few seasons, even if his assist numbers don’t reflect it this year. In his three seasons with the Spurs, he averaged over six assists per game and an assist rate of over 28 percent. For reference, Khris Middleton (who is a very good passer and playmaker) had an assist rate of just under 24 percent the last three seasons.

He wasn’t asked to do as much playmaking with the Bulls this season due to them needing all they could get from him as a scorer, but he’s not the score-only player he was when the Bucks last saw him in the playoffs.