It’s not often that players have the best season of their career at age 32—particularly four seasons removed from their last All-Star appearance. That’s what made the leaps and bounds of DeMar DeRozan so special last season. For the first time in his career, DeRozan got to pick a new home with the Chicago Bulls and exceeded every expectation set for him.
In his 13th NBA season, DeRozan set a career-high with 27.9 points per game on uncanny efficiency. On 20.2 shots per game, 11th in the league, the Los Angeles native shot 50.4% from the field and a career-best 35.2% from deep. His throwback playstyle is predicated on all-world footwork, mid-range mastery and an arsenal of ball-handling moves that get him to his favorite spots for easy buckets.
Even with two former All-Stars already in the lineup, DeRozan immediately asserted himself as a top dog in Chicago. Of players to log 1,500+ minutes last season, DeMar DeRozan posted his team’s highest on/off differential (+5.1 points per 100 possessions) while leading them in total points and assists.
He wore many different hats for the team, but none more impressive than his emergence as an elite closer. DeRozan ranked second in the entire NBA in total clutch points on 53.5% from the field—second only to Devin Booker, who took 35 fewer shots in those situations. Obliterating the narrative that he choked under pressure, DeRozan consistently took the game into his own hands and led his Bulls to the 6th seed in a competitive Eastern Conference.
For all of his accomplishments, the Bulls were eliminated in the first-round of the NBA Playoffs in a difficult matchup against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. As Chicago reloads with a healthy roster and some key additions, one question remains:
Will DeMar DeRozan be able to match his output in the 2022-23 season?
33-year-old NBA stars would be on the decline not long ago, but that trend hasn’t held up in recent years. Stars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant are adding legacy-defining seasons through their mid-to-late 30s as they compete for championships and set new records along the way.
Injuries haven’t been a major concern for DeRozan, who played in at least 60 games in every season of his career including eight years of 70+ games. Though his body hasn’t suffered major damage to this point, 13 years of wear and tear could catch up at any time.
That idea would be crippling if his game hadn’t evolved, but DeRozan doesn’t rely on his athleticism anymore. In fact, the dominant scorer is more cerebral than physical at this stage of his career. DeRozan’s timing is stellar, grabbing rebounds with his long reach and excellent positioning over sheer vertical like back in the day. He doesn’t need to muscle through a defender to create separation and his high release point allows him to shoot over top of opponents. In short, DeRozan refuses to let age affect his impact.
Part of the reason DeRozan needed to score at such a high volume was because of Chicago’s injury troubles last year. Only three rotation players logged more than 70 games and there were few chance for the Bulls’ best players to share the court. In these moments, he increased his overall workload as a passer and scorer to fill the gaps.
So could DeMar DeRozan sustain his play? Probably. He’s improved every year of his career by putting in countless hours, studying the game’s greats and evolving his playstyle. There’s no reason to belive that will stop now or any time soon.
But if the Bulls are able to stay healthy, he shouldn’t have to sustain his output in order to be influential to Chicago’s success.