LaVine can do more from a scoring standpoint, but DeRozan has a more accomplished history and better numbers the past few seasons to warrant riding him in crunchtime. Either way, it’s a great problem for coach Billy Donovan to have.
It’s a nice problem for Billy Donovan to have.
Actually, the Bulls coach has two.
Veteran DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine each deem themselves closers. Not an easy designation to earn. After all, there have been a lot of NBA players that feel like they can throw on the cape late in games and play Batman, while the rest of their teammates can only trust in their abilities.
It’s an alpha mentality, especially for the elite few that are actually good at it.
But the Bulls have two alphas. Hard for opposing defenses to guard, but also a fine line for both DeRozan and LaVine to navigate. Do they lean on experience late in close games? Is it dictated by matchup? Or is it simply the hot hand carries the day?
Likely a mix of all of the above.
Take matchup and opposition out of it: Down a point and 5 seconds left on the clock, who do you trust more? GO:
— Joe Cowley (@JCowleyHoops) October 26, 2021
That’s why DeRozan was brought to the Bulls this offseason. To give Donovan that option. An option he rode on Monday, as the Raptors were clawing their way back from a 20-point third quarter deficit, only to be thwarted by DeRozan time and time again.
“He’s been our go-to in the closing moments of games and he hasn’t disappointed yet,’’ Lonzo Ball said of DeRozan. “[Monday] he put us on his back pretty much, and carried the fourth quarter out for us.’’
In that instance, call it Donovan riding the hot hand.
DeRozan went 3-for-5 from the field, and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. LaVine was just 1-for-4 — hitting a three — and had a costly turnover.
“I have 100% trust in [DeRozan],’’ Ball continued. “We know he’s going to make the right play and take us to the promised land.’’
And that’s where the history of the two comes into play. DeRozan has a solid one when it comes to winning, while LaVine is trying to change his.
In earning a fourth-straight win to start the season, it was the first time LaVine accomplished a streak like that in his NBA career. The last meaningful four-game winning streak LaVine had been a part of was back on March 14, 2014, when his UCLA Bruins beat Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, downed Arizona in the finals, and then beat Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin in the NCAA Tournament, before — of all people — Donovan’s Florida team eliminated him.
As of Tuesday, LaVine remains the player with the worst winning percentage of any All-Star ever at 31.87%. His hope this season is to pass up Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is second at 33.13%.
Again, LaVine has been on some very bad teams, so he’s more a victim of circumstance than a player carrying that blame.
When breaking down the numbers of both LaVine and DeRozan they each have more strengths than weaknesses in playing hero ball.
In the last two minutes of games that were four points or less last season — both ahead or behind — LaVine shot 41.5% from the field, while DeRozan was 45.8%. The difference was LaVine had no assists, while DeRozan averaged 0.4 in those games, which means he’s more willing to play-make.
In the last 30 seconds of four-point games last season – ahead or behind – LaVine shot 42.1% from the field, while DeRozan was 46.7%. DeRozan was plus-0.3 in plus/minus in those situations with the Spurs, while LaVine was minus-0.2. Again, San Antonio was a better team.
As teammates this season, however, it’s only four games but DeRozan was averaging a team-high 6.3 points per game in the fourth, shooting 52.9% from the field and 50% from three, while sitting at plus-1.8 in plus/minus.
LaVine was 4.8 points per game in the fourth, shooting 38.5% from the field and 33% from three, sitting at minus-2.5 in plus/minus.
So should there be more trust in DeRozan at this point?
It’s a great problem for Donovan to have.