Bulls close book on DeMar DeRozan era, get Chris Duarte in sign-and-trade deal

Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair heard fans chanting his name Saturday night.

Monty! Monty! MontyThey cried out loud.

Word has just spread around the Golden 1 Center that the basketball executive has acquired six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan in a multi-team sign-and-trade deal. Sacramento sent Chris Duarte, two second-round picks and cash to the Chicago Bulls, plus Harrison Barnes and a 2031 pick to the San Antonio Spurs, according to ESPN.

Kings fans showered McNair with a long standing ovation as he greeted his family and friends courtside at the California Summer Classic. With a blockbuster deal, McNair has put the Kings closer to a title challenge, putting DeRozan in a formidable starting lineup that also includes De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray and, likely, Malik Monk.

DeRozan, who earned the nickname “King of the Fourth Quarter” for his dominance of the fourth quarter during his three seasons with the Bulls, will add stability to Sacramento as another reliable scorer in crunch time. He averaged 25.5 points on 49.6 percent shooting in 229 games with the Bulls, starting 93 percent of his team’s games during that span.

Minutes after McNair entered, DeRozan walked into Golden 1 Center on Saturday. He was celebrated as if he had already hit a mid-range shot for the Kings to win the game against the rival Golden State Warriors. With Kendrick Lamar’s hit song “Not Like Us” playing over the arena speakers, Kings fans erupted as DeRozan headed to his seat. DeRozan, who signed a three-year, $76 million contract, according to The athleteThey were greeted with a quick hello by Shams Charania before joining Kings governor Vivek Ranadive on the field to watch the Kings Summer League team take on China.

On the seventh day of free agency, the timing of the coronation seemed preordained. However, the reason for the wild celebration was entirely understandable. Sacramento ended a 16-year playoff drought two seasons ago before missing out on the 2023-24 season. The Kings haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004. When DeRozan is paired with Sacramento’s dynamic core, it makes the Kings a dangerous prospect.

See also  At the Indy 500, Pato O'Ward is sad after failing again

The Bulls had missed the playoffs in four straight seasons before DeRozan arrived in Chicago and lifted the team to a 46-36 record in 2021-22. DeRozan averaged a career-high 27.9 points and helped the Bulls win the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference that season before the injury-plagued team fell in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago has been eliminated in the play-in tournament finals each of the past two seasons despite rampant injuries.

DeRozan, who turns 35 next month, has been steadfastly proving he has plenty to offer, even as a star. He leads the NBA in total minutes played, with 2,989, and averages 37.8 minutes. He has only played more in a single season twice in his career: in his fourth and fifth seasons, when he was 23 and 24. Last season was his 15th.

But in Sacramento, DeRozan won’t be forced to be a do-it-all star. The Kings already have the star power to allow DeRozan to play third-string.

As in his previous stops in Toronto and San Antonio, DeRozan will still have to show a season-long commitment to defense and three-point shooting. He has increased his intentionality in both departments in each subsequent season with the Bulls. In his first season with Chicago, for example, DeRozan made one three-point shot. Over his last two seasons, he has made 23, second on the team behind All-NBA Second-Team Defensive selection Alex Caruso, who made 26.

Perhaps DeRozan’s professionalism is more than his endurance and fourth-quarter dominance over the past three seasons. He has brought leadership to the Bulls as a legend that many of his teammates watched growing up. In January 2021, DeRozan drove to the retirement of then-University of Illinois freshman Ayo Dosumu. DeRozan has also graciously and cheerfully invited younger teammates like Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry to practice with him each summer.

See also  Fire destroys Dolphins star's home Southwest Ranches - NBC 6 South Florida

Meanwhile, the sentiment in Chicago can be described as relief. Had the Bulls re-signed DeRozan, who has repeatedly expressed a desire to return, it would have been a safe path to respectability. Chicago could have had 40 wins and a third straight play-in tournament season. Bulls basketball chief executive Arturas Karnišovas has promised changes to the maxed-out roster, and DeRozan’s seven-day wait raises crucial questions about the Bulls’ direction.

When the Chicago Bulls traded Caruso to the Thunder the week before the NBA Draft, DeRozan’s fate was sealed. Chicago chose to chart a new course by acquiring 21-year-old playmaker Josh Gaede, who was selected sixth in the 2021 draft. Duarte, a 6-foot-6 swingman with 3-D potential who was headed to the Bulls from the Kings, was the 13th pick that year.

After the Bulls agreed to sign Williams to a five-year, $90 million deal on the eve of the free agency period, DeRozan had to take a significant pay cut to stay in Chicago — where he’ll play on a rebuilding team. The deal gives the Bulls a chance to reset things while allowing DeRozan a chance to get back into playoff contention.

Chicago avoided the worst-case scenario of seeing DeRozan leave the trade market for nothing. With few teams with salary cap space or ideal landing spots, DeRozan faced a limited market. The Bulls deserve credit for acquiring a future tradable asset in exchange for DeRozan, but this move also seems a step behind the times. Close observers who called for the Bulls to regroup at the trade deadline last year will at least wonder what the Bulls could have gotten for trading DeRozan last season. Instead, the Bulls tried unsuccessfully to make the playoffs.

See also  College football scores, schedule, NCAA rankings, today's games: Michigan, Kansas, UCLA at work

The extra draft picks could be beneficial for the Bulls as the postseason continues to be a rollercoaster. After trading Caruso and DeRozan, the Bulls have decisions to make regarding Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball. All three remain under contract and could still be on the roster on opening night.

But the Bulls are proving they are serious about making changes.

(DeMar DeRozan and Harrison Barnes photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *