The 12 Days of Bullsmas. Day 9: Luol Deng

Posted: December 21, 2011 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Basketball, NBA
Tags: , , ,

Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

I used to be a very big Deng critic. It was spawned more out of anger than any real basketball analysis. I let the Kobe Bryant trade rumors and the aftermath affect me more than I should have. I wasn’t quite in the start John Salmons at the 3 camp, but the offense did seem to flow a little bit better when he was in.

Deng has proven to be a more than capable basketball player. His defense makes up for a lot of his offensive inabilities. Deng doesn’t dribble well and his 3 pt. shot isn’t all you want it to be, but he is comfortable as the third offensive option. The Bulls don’t need Deng to be the primary scorer now that they have Rose and Boozer. Deng is a big X Factor in the Bulls fortunes as they try to figure out a way to solve the Heat puzzle.

The Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng combo will be the reason the Bulls either win or lose the East. Derrick Rose will be the focus of opposing defenses, but if Hamilton and Deng can hit the outside shot it will force teams to stay honest and not trap so aggresively when the Bulls set up for screens. The Miami Heat played a swarming defense that choked the passing lanes and disrupted the flow of their offense.

It’s pretty hard to make fun of dude, he’s a solid ballplayer.

Deng is an able defender. His job this season is to shut down the wing, rotate over when the perimeter defense breaks down and be a kick out option for Derrick Rose. Deng is who he is, there is not going to be another jump in improvement for him. This is fine, he no longer needs to be the star we all thought he was going to be in the advent of the Heat series from a time before this current NBA landscape.

In the 2007 playoffs Deng averaged 22 and 8. Game 1 against the heat was his coming out party. He scored 33 pts. and grabbed 8 rebounds in a surprising victory over the defending champs. Stardom was predicted for Deng from that moment, and when he failed to live up to the expectations, Bulls fans turned on him. The following year the Bulls were the subject of trade rumors as Kobe Bryant wanted out of LA. Bryant allegedly wanted to come to Chicago. Deng was rumored to be the sticking point in the deal and since then Bulls fans have expected a level of play from him that was unrealistic in hindsight.

Deng has improved in funky ways. His 3 pt. shot was not good coming into the NBA, so he stopped taking 3’s. His FG percentage shot up, but his efficiency never improved. His defense was pretty ok coming in, but it’s turned into something that resembles elite. He’s not quite the shut down defender that some imagine him to be, he’s not quite the LeBron stopper, but he does fit well in the defensive scheme Thibs has cooked up for the Bulls.

Lu will never be a super star, but he has turned into the underrated piece of the Bulls. What he does well doesn’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet or in highlight reels, but it is important for a team that is predicated on good defense and smart offensive play.

Deng will be the difference in a Bulls-Heat rematch. Historically he does well against James. Well, he does about a good a job as any other elite defender can against James.His offensive game can help the Bulls, but it won’t be the primary reason they win most nights. Deng is a solid piece, but Bulls fans should stop expecting more from him. He is who he is at this point, and that just might be enough.

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