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Bulls Upgrade Offense With DeRozan Addition, but Spurs Get Better End of Sign-and-Trade

DeMar DeRozan is trading the River Walk for Lake Michigan. The four-time All-Star agreed to a three-year, $85 million deal with the Bulls on Tuesday. DeRozan is headed to Chicago as part of a sign-and-trade in which the Spurs will acquire Thaddeus Young, a future first-round pick, and two future second-round picks. DeRozan, 31, averaged 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists a night last season. Let’s grade this deal for both teams.

Bulls: C

DeRozan is a skilled player, and his contract is basically the going rate for someone who has been a consistent 20-point scorer for nearly a decade. After playing most of his career at shooting guard, DeRozan played a good chunk of power forward for San Antonio in 2021. That positional flexibility should come in handy for Chicago, which will be adding DeRozan to a core of Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vučević. DeRozan complements those players nicely. LaVine, Ball and even Vooch are all capable shooters, which should help mitigate DeRozan’s midrange-bound game. The Bulls are undeniably more talented than a season ago, and while the defense may not scare anyone at the moment, the offensive skill in the starting five is impressive.

However, the value of DeRozan’s scoring has always been murky. A disturbing trend is how often his teams perform better with him off the floor. In every season in which he averaged at least 20 points per game, DeRozan’s teams still had a better net rating when he was on the bench, according to Basketball Reference. The last time DeRozan’s teams had a better net rating with him on the floor as opposed to off was in 2012. On top of all that, this isn’t an outright signing. Chicago is losing a first-rounder to acquire DeRozan, which is significant after the front office already parted with two to acquire Vučević.

Perhaps head coach Billy Donovan can make this all work. His experience with Russell Westbrook should help him build an offense around LaVine and DeRozan—though it could also be illustrative of potential playoff issues that could arise should the Bulls make the postseason. Chicago is undoubtedly putting together a more capable roster in 2021. How much DeRozan’s presence actually adds up to more wins remains a question.

Spurs: B+

If you’re losing DeRozan as a free agent no matter what, this is not a bad haul for San Antonio. Thad Young is good, and he can either soak up minutes as a capable veteran or fetch a pick from a contender. The first-rounder coming back is the highlight of this move, especially if the Spurs didn’t have much interest in retaining DeRozan, anyway.

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