Lowes 10 things: a flourishing DeMar DeRozan, a crisis in Philly and … legit good basketball in OKC?!

    Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.

Let’s end 2021 with 10 things I like and dislike from the NBA this week — including a perfect match on the Chicago Bulls, an underreported crisis in Philadelphia, a tribute to the one-handed rebound and legitimately good basketball in Oklahoma City. Happy New Year!

1. DeMar DeRozan, fully formed

Once in a while, a player’s mental and physical skills meet at their respective apexes, and at that moment, he lands on a team that puts him in ideal position to succeed. All the discrete skills the player spent years honing are finally ready to flourish together on a team playing for real stakes — a team that needs the fully actualized version of that player.

That rare sports alchemy is happening now with DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls. In Toronto, DeRozan established himself as an old-school midrange scorer. He used his deadly pump-fake to earn heaps of free throws. (Seriously: The Hall of Fame should create some kind of interactive exhibit where fans see how long they can defend hologram DeRozan without biting on his fake.)

In fits and starts, DeRozan improved his playmaking — peaking at 5.2 dimes per game in his final Toronto season. That was the only season in which he shot more than a token number of 3s, and even that required a midseason intervention inside Masai Ujiri’s office.

DeRozan amped up his playmaking with the San Antonio Spurs. He was the lone veteran ball handler; there was no Kyle Lowry. The Spurs lacked elite finishers around him.

Everything has coalesced with the Bulls. It’s a match of player, team, and timing that makes you believe in hokey sports destiny — like every tidbit of DeRozan’s growth, every setback, every achievement, was leading to this role.

In sequences both smooth and dizzying at once, DeRozan combines every playmaking skill-within-a-skill he has mastered:

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