Could anyone have predicted that the DeMar DeRozan Era in Chicago would have this great start?

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It didn’t take DeRozan long to dispel notions that he wouldn’t be able to thrive in his new situation. After opening the season with four wins to get the team’s best start in 25 years, the new Bulls have shown their early-season success was sustainable, and much of that can be attributed to DeRozan.

As they approach the middle of the season, the Bulls hold sole possession of the best record in the East and rank just a few games behind the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors for the best record in the league.

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DeRozan has been as impressive as his team, averaging 26.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, possibly the best of his 13-year career. Suffice it to say, the 32-year-old has been the best player on one of the best teams in the NBA all season.

It’s only fair that we have the MVP conversation.

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Until recently, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have understandably dominated most of the MVP discussions, while Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant and, to a lesser extent, LeBron James and Joel Embiid have gained traction rather quickly. With more than 40 games to play, a relatively low December for Curry, coupled with a stretch of inconsistency for the Nets, has the 2023 MVP race wide open.

So why not DeRozan?

DeRozan ticks all the boxes for an MVP – he has the numbers, his team is winning, and he’s stepping up when it matters most.

In early December, TSN’s Nick Metallinos used a late-game takeover at Madison Square Garden to illustrate just how good DeRozan had been in the fourth quarter up to that point in the season. Not less than three weeks later, TSN’s Scott Rafferty took a deeper look at DeRozan’s fourth-quarter numbers to show just how much damage he’s doing in the final frame.

and that was before DeRozan made history by hitting the game-winning buzzer on consecutive nights.

After DeRozan’s second winning goal, Zach LaVine perfectly summed up the courage of his running mate saying, “I thank God we have DeMar DeRozan on our team.” That presence as a calming force is DeRozan’s value that cannot be measured by any statistics.

Who knows where Chicago would be without him?

MORE: Is the Hall of Fame within reach of DeRozan?

In terms of stats that can be counted, DeRozan’s 26.2 points per game currently rank seventh among qualified players, behind only Antetokounmpo, Curry, Durant, James, Embiid and Trae Young – four former MVPs, one of the MVP finalists from last season and a future MVP. candidate. It is not bad company.

So why not DeRozan?

Over the course of his 13-year career, DeRozan finished in the top 15 in MVP only twice: in 2016-17 he finished 11th and in 2017-18 he finished eighth. As good as it was in each of those seasons, it has been even better this year.

DeMar DeRozan’s MVP-worthy campaigns
Season Get older Team MIN. Pts REB AST FG% 3P% FOOT%
2016-17 27 raptors 35.4 27.3 5.2 3.9 .467 .266 .842
2017-18 28 raptors 33.9 23.0 3.9 5.2 .456 .310 .825
2021-22 32 Bulls 35.1 26.2 5.2 4.8 .493 .352 .851

A three-year stint in San Antonio played an important role in DeRozan’s continued improvement on the other side of 30, as evidenced by his comfort in an atypical role with Chicago this season. According to Cleaning The Glass, DeRozan has played 74 percent of his minutes at power forward this season, continuing the trend of a gradual rise that began in San Antonio.

As if his full display play from the four position isn’t impressive enough, he’s doing it alongside other dominant ball creators like LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic.

This season, DeRozan has been malleable, but domineering, which is pretty impressive when you think about it.

Perhaps the most important sign of DeRozan’s commitment to victory is an increased willingness to go for his 3-point shot. Before discarding DeRozan’s 2.1 3-point attempts per game, it’s important to recognize that he is shooting a career-best 35.2 percent from beyond the arc and has hit 25 3-pointers in 35 games. In perspective, DeRozan made a total of 35 3-pointers during his entire three-year stint with the Spurs, which spanned 206 regular-season games.

DeRozan’s willingness to take, and make, triples is part of what this team needs to be at its best. Even the smallest difference in floor space can open things up for everyone on the floor.

It also helps that DeRozan’s two ring shots came from beyond the arc. The impact on winning can’t be much more direct than that.

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Ultimately, winning is what DeRozan’s MVP case will come down to. In the 2016-17 season, the Raptors finished third in the East with a 51-31 record, while they finished first in the East with a 59-23 franchise record in the 2017-18 season.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR forecast, the Bulls are currently projected to finish atop the Eastern Conference with a 51-31 record. If DeRozan can maintain this level of play for the remainder of the season and propel this franchise to the No. 1 seed for the first time in 10 seasons, the MVP noise should get louder.

Your place in the discussion will have been rightfully earned.