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


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

Monte! Monte! Monte!” they bellowed.

Word had just spread throughout the Golden 1 Center that the chief basketball executive acquired six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan in a multiple-team sign-and-trade. Sacramento sent Chris Duarte, two second-round picks and cash to the Chicago Bulls, as well as Harrison Barnes and a 2031 pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs, according to league sources.

Kings fans showered McNair with applause that kept going and going as he greeted family and friends sitting courtside at the California Classic Summer League. With a blockbuster acquisition, McNair moved the Kings closer to championship contention, pairing DeRozan with a formidable starting lineup that also features De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray and, likely, Malik Monk.

DeRozan, who earned the nickname “King of the Fourth” for his fourth-quarter dominance over his three seasons with the Bulls, will add stability for Sacramento as another trusted scorer in crunchtime. He averaged 25.5 points on 49.6 percent shooting in 229 games with the Bulls, appearing in 93 percent of his team’s contests over that span.

Minutes after McNair made his entrance, DeRozan walked into the Golden 1 Center on Saturday. He was celebrated like he’d already delivered the Kings a game-winning midrange jumper over the rival Golden State Warriors. With rapper Kendrick Lamar’s smash hit “Not Like Us” playing over the arena’s speakers, Kings fans erupted as DeRozan strolled to his seat. DeRozan, who signed a three-year, $76 million deal, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, acknowledged them with a quick wave before joining Kings governor Vivek Ranadivé courtside to watch the Kings’ summer league squad take on the Chinese national team.

On the seventh day of free agency, the timing of the coronation almost felt choreographed. However, the reason for such a raucous celebration was completely understandable. Sacramento snapped a 16-year playoff drought two seasons ago before missing the postseason in 2023-24. The Kings haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004. DeRozan, when combined with Sacramento’s dynamic core, makes the Kings a dangerous out.

The Bulls missed the playoffs in four straight seasons before DeRozan arrived in Chicago and lifted the franchise to a 46-36 record in the 2021-22 season. DeRozan averaged a career-high 27.9 points and helped the Bulls capture the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed that season before an injury-ravaged roster fell in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago was ousted in the final stage of the Play-in Tournament in each of the past two seasons despite rampant injuries.

DeRozan, who turns 35 next month, is stubbornly proving he has plenty left to contribute, even in a starring role. He led the NBA in total minutes at 2,989 as well as with a 37.8 average. He’s only played more minutes in a season twice in his career: during his fourth and fifth seasons when he was 23 and 24. Last season was his 15th.

But in Sacramento, DeRozan no longer will be forced into being a do-everything star. Instead, the Kings already possess the requisite star power to allow DeRozan to nestle into a lethal third-scoring option.

As with his previous stops in Sacramento and Toronto, DeRozan will still have to display a season-long commitment to defense and 3-point shooting. He increased his intentionality in both departments in each subsequent season with the Bulls. For example, in his first with Chicago, DeRozan drew one charge. Over his final two seasons, he drew 23, ranking second on the team behind NBA All-Defensive Second-Team selection Alex Caruso, who had 26.

DeRozan’s professionalism might have been all that topped his durability and fourth-quarter dominance the past three seasons. He brought leadership to the Bulls as a legend many of his teammates watched as they were growing up. In January 2021, DeRozan drove to then-rookie Ayo Dosummu’s jersey retirement at the University of Illinois. DeRozan also graciously and giddily invited younger teammates like Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry to work with him each summer. Similar stories of DeRozan still surface from San Antonio, where he also spent three seasons working with young, impressionable teammates.

Meanwhile, the sentiment in Chicago could be described as one of relief. Had the Bulls re-signed DeRozan, who repeatedly expressed his desire to return, it would have represented a safe route toward respectability. Chicago could have been penciled in for 40 wins and a third straight season in the Play-in Tournament. Bulls chief basketball executive Artūras Karnišovas promised changes to a roster that had maxed out, and DeRozan’s seven-day wait carried critical questions for the Bulls’ direction.

When the 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 point guard Josh Giddey, the sixth pick in the 2021 draft. Duarte, the 6-foot-6 swingman with 3-and-D potential who heads to the Bulls from the Kings, was the 13th selection that year.

After the Bulls agreed to sign Williams to a five-year, $90 million contract on the eve of free agency, DeRozan would have had to take a massive pay cut to remain in Chicago — where he’d be playing on a rebuilding team. The deal gives the Bulls a chance to reset while allowing DeRozan a chance to return to deep playoff contention.

Chicago avoided its worst-case scenario of watching DeRozan walk in free agency for nothing. With few teams having cap space or being ideal landing spots, DeRozan ran into a limited market. The Bulls deserve credit for acquiring future tradable assets for DeRozan, but the move also feels a step behind. Close observers who called for the Bulls to retool at last year’s trade deadline at a minimum will still wonder what the Bulls could have received for trading DeRozan last season. Instead, the Bulls made a failed attempt at the playoffs.

The additional draft picks could come in handy for the Bulls as their offseason of change continues. After trading Caruso and DeRozan, the Bulls have decisions to make on Zach LaVine, Nikola Vučević and Lonzo Ball. All three remain under contract and still could be on the roster come opening night.

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

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





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