With the season almost through the first quarter of the schedule, the veteran small forward is at least in the debate for the MVP list. Just don’t remind him of that, as DeRozan’s focus is elsewhere.
DeMar DeRozan won’t win NBA MVP this season.
The media hype machine isn’t in the small forward’s favor, and the fact that he plays alongside a second candidate in Zach LaVine means even if the Bulls are put under a microscope by the voters, there could be some split votes.
There’s no doubt, however, that DeRozan should be in the debate with the first quarter of the season almost in the books.
Even with a subpar performance – by the standards DeRozan has set this season – in the loss to Indiana on Monday, the veteran was 11th in the league in PER [Player Efficiency Rating], and sixth in scoring with 26.3 per game, and doing so on a Bulls team that’s sprinted out of the gate for a 12-6 start.
But numbers don’t necessarily measure the man.
DeRozan’s impact is bigger than stats and analytics.
His on-the court presence has made life easier for LaVine, especially late game when opposing teams have to pick a poison between the two All-Stars. But DeRozan’s off-the-court mentoring has been even more important.
“I’ve never played with a player like Zach before,” DeRozan said. “The things he’s capable of doing offensively is intimidating honestly, how easy he can do the things he can do. It heightens my level to go out there and want to be neck-and-neck with him in competing and helping this team win.
“When I played with Kyle [Lowry back in Toronto], he taught me a lot. He was older than me, and now kind of the roles being reversed, just trying to teach Zach as much as I’ve learned since being in the league, and just going out there with him has definitely been a fun thing.”
And a productive one.
Right behind DeRozan in scoring was Lavine at 25.9 points per game. The only other team that has teammates each scoring close to that clip were the Timberwolves, who had Karl-Anthony Towns 15th with 23.4 points per game, and Anthony Edwards 18th at 22.2 points per game.
Just don’t talk to DeRozan about anything other than winning and getting better.
He was asked about the MVP talk starting to circulate around him, and quickly dismissed it as anything besides just that – talk.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I never once think about [MVP talk],” DeRozan said. “Winning takes care of everything, and as long as we do what we’re supposed to on the court, winning, everything you desire will come with it and you take it as it comes.
“For me I’m just trying to go out there and play every single game. It’s always an honor just to be mentioned as one of the best in the game, you never take that for granted, but for me I just want to continue trying to be a winner and win as many games as I can. When all that piles up, whatever comes with it comes with it.”
So if not DeRozan, who so far? It’s pretty clear cut:
1. Stephen Curry – Golden State – The best player on the best team, and the best shooter ever, Curry is the odds on leader so far.
2. Nikola Jokic – Denver – The record isn’t where it should be, but “Joker” is putting up the same – if not better – numbers than he did last season when he was named MVP.
3. Jimmy Butler – Miami – The former Bull is off to a career-year scoring-wise, and has a ridiculous PER of 30.63, which is third in the league.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee – His scoring and field goal percentage are down a bit, but still an elite force.
5. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn – Still one of the greatest all-around scorers the game has seen.