In their first-round playoff series, the Chicago Bulls were never expected to be a match for the Milwaukee Bucks. And aside from a 41-point outburst from DeMar DeRozan in Game 2, they weren’t. After a solid start to the season, the Bucks sent the Bulls home confused about what went wrong for them this season.
While injuries certainly played a part, it wasn’t as if the Bulls were missing half their roster in the first series. DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic played in all five games, and Zach LaVine only missed the Game 5 clincher because of COVID-19. The problem was their overreliance on DeRozan, who was forced to carry an unsustainable burden. It also doesn’t help how DeRozan happens to be one of the worst postseason players in NBA history.
DeRozan struggled in the playoffs throughout his career
DeRozan has made it to the playoffs seven times in his 13-year career. “Deebo” has only made it past the second round once in those seven trips. While he hasn’t ever played on a team that was considered a championship contender, you would expect DeRozan to have a bit more postseason success, considering how good of a player he is.
While the initial argument has shown DeRozan as a player who hasn’t had much help in the playoffs, the issue may be with DeRozan himself. With the Bulls’ first-round series in the history books now, DeRozan has seen his playoff career plus/minus settle in at -371. That is the lowest plus/minus of any player in the playoffs in NBA history, and it isn’t particularly close (Carmelo Anthony is second at -288).
DeRozan has posted a negative plus/minus total in every postseason he’s participated in. For reference, he just posted a -65 plus/minus in the five-game series against the Bucks, and that’s not even the worst postseason he has had so far. For as good as DeMar has been in the regular season, he’s typically been just as bad in the postseason.
Why does DeRozan struggle so much in the playoffs?
Now obviously, plus/minus isn’t the most reliable stat out there, considering it measures only one player’s impact in a game in which there are always going to be four other people on the court alongside you. But in DeRozan’s case, the numbers don’t lie; he’s been consistently bad in the playoffs, regardless of what team he was on or who his opponent was. The overarching question lingers, though; why has he been so bad?
Sometimes, the cards have been stacked against DeRozan to the point where he has no control over his team’s outcome. Against the Bucks, DeRozan was getting doubled practically every time he touched the ball. No matter what DeRozan did, Chicago would have lost that series based on his teammates’ lack of help.
But the best players in the NBA can make adjustments in the playoffs to overcome adversity. Unfortunately, DeRozan hasn’t been able to adapt to the changes his opponents make in the postseason. He couldn’t figure out ways to get his shots against the Bucks, and once again, his team went crashing out of the playoffs in the first round.
This issue has plagued DeRozan’s career, and until he figures things out, it will continue to pop up again and again. The Bulls looked good enough at times this season to make some noise in the Eastern Conference, but nobody was surprised to see them crash and burn once it got to the playoffs. While that doesn’t solely fall on DeMar DeRozan’s shoulders, his overall body of work makes him one of the worst disappointing postseason performers in recent NBA history, and it may take a miracle for him to change that in the future.