He led the fan vote at every turn. He’s an MVP candidate more than halfway through the season.
So it felt like a formality that DeMar DeRozan would eventually be named an All-Star starter in the Eastern Conference backcourt. On Thursday, it was made official, based on a vote of fans (50 percent), player (25 percent) and media (25 percent).
DeRozan not only ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 26.4 points per game, he’s done so efficiently, shooting 49.7 percent in the second-highest usage season of his career. He's also the NBA's second-leading fourth-quarter scorer, with a handful of heroic late-game moments to his name.
And the Chicago Bulls, while no longer first in the East, continue to smash most prognosticators' expectations. As of Thursday, they sit 30-17 (a 52-win pace) and second in the conference, trailing the Miami Heat by just half a game for the top spot.
Needless to say, DeRozan has been at the heart of the franchise's resurgence.
"He's meant a lot to this team in many different ways," Nikola Vučević said after Wednesday's 111-105 win over the Raptors. "The leadership he's brought. The experience he's brought. The confidence that we have when he's on the court with us, especially at the end of games, we know he's a guy we can go to.
"I think that helps, especially with the younger guys. You have a player like him, who's been through a lot of playoff games, a lot of experiences, tough loss, big wins, things like that. You know you can rely on him, and I think it helps a lot to have a guy like that, who's experienced. And also he just has a very great demeanor about him, and I think it rubs off very positively on the team. And then, his game, I mean, his play all year long has been really amazing, maybe, I think it could arguably one of his best years in the NBA.
"His game, obviously everybody sees it. But we also see the stuff outside that people don't see."
This is DeRozan’s third career All-Star start and fifth selection, overall. He’s the Bulls’ first All-Star starter since Jimmy Butler in 2017, and the 19th All-Star in franchise history.
With Trae Young winning the second starting backcourt spot for the East, Zach LaVine will have to wait until the coach’s reserve selections are announced on Feb. 3 to officially celebrate his second career nod. But, averaging 24.9 points on typically efficient shooting splits, consider him a shoo-in.
Then, stay tuned for which team lands each Bulls star in the Feb. 10 All-Star draft. The game itself takes place Feb. 20 in Cleveland.