DeMar DeRozan is averaging 8.0 points in the fourth quarter of games so far this season.
Why is it so remarkable? For a couple of reasons.
One is when DeRozan, who currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring at 26.8 points per game, is doing most of his damage. Two, it’s the most in the league by a not inconsiderable margin.
The closest players to DeRozan in scoring in the fourth quarter are Giannis Antetokounmpo (7.3), Kevin Durant (7.0) and Cole Anthony (7.0), followed by Jayson Tatum (6.8), LeBron James (6.7) and Zach LaVine (6.5) . DeRozan has a higher actual shooting percentage, a global measure of shooting efficiency that combines field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws, than all but one. (You’ll never guess who that player is … or maybe you will now that you know it’s the less obvious choice.)
In total, DeRozan is shooting 54.2 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point range (albeit with little volume) and 91.2 percent from the free throw line in the final quarter of games.
That’s as automatic as possible, folks.
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Anyone familiar with DeRozan’s game won’t be surprised to learn that he has done his best work from midrange down the stretch of games. It has been particularly efficient in the short midrange, more commonly known as the floating range.
If you’re unfamiliar with the venue, it’s the green area, which represents DeRozan shooting 10 percentage points better than the league average, out of the paint on his fourth-quarter shooting chart.
DeRozan doesn’t actually shoot a lot of floats when he gets that close to the basket. Instead, he relies on his trusty jumper.
Whether or not DeRozan is the The best mid-range shooter in the league is up for debate today, both Kevin Durant and Chris Paul would have a say on that, but he’s certainly up for discussion. Few players score as often as he does from that distance, and it’s a tough matchup for most defenders.
Why? First off, DeRozan is a great ball handler at 6ft 6in, 220lbs with a 6ft9in wingspan.
Its combination of size and length makes it a difficult cover for escorts because it can dominate and fire on many of them.
It doesn’t help that he has a natural fade in his jumper, which makes it even more difficult for smaller players to interrupt his rhythm.
Even the biggest defenders have a hard time putting a hand to his face.
Plus, DeRozan has one of the best footwork in the league.
He does things like this …
… pretty consistent, which makes it look easy, but it’s just the opposite.
DeRozan is also a good passer. His numbers are down this season, but he’s coming off a season in which he averaged 6.9 assists per game, the best of his career.
If teams load up on him, he’s more than capable of making the right play.
Most important to DeRozan and the Bulls, of course, is that their heroics in the fourth quarter translate into wins. According to NBA.com, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by a total of 77 points in the fourth quarter of games with DeRozan on the court. That’s one of the best marks in the league, behind only a handful of players on the Jazz, a couple of players on the Warriors and forward Miles Bridges of the Hornets.
His performance specifically in the clutch, the final five minutes of a five-point game, paints a similar picture, with DeRozan ranking near the top of the league in total points scored (51) and over / under (plus 22).
In other words, when it comes to buying time, DeRozan has delivered time and time again this season.
“I just put it down to my hard work, honestly,” DeRozan said of his explosions in the fourth quarter. “I’m a huge boxing fan, and I love seeing a lot of guys resolve the fight early and dominate later in the fight. They call it the championship rounds in boxing.
“I love that mentality at the end of the games and I understand that this is where it gets more difficult.
“So for me, finding ways to make it easier for me and my teammates, that’s the mentality I have at the end of the game, and it’s been helpful for me and my teammates.”
There are a lot of things that come into play in a player’s MVP case, but for DeRozan this season, it starts with that key number.