Most people don't associate "Luol Deng" and "superstar" in the same breath, but fully healthy for the first time in three years- and without Derrick Rose for the rest of the season- the man from Sudan is making a bid to become even more highly sought-after when his contract expires July 1, 2014.
Historically, Deng has always been just another guy on offense- a player who didn't really look for his shot unless he had to, a player who was happy to just take what the defense gave him.
But since Rose's latest season-ending knee injury, Deng has shown that he can carry an offense at times. Doing a lot more work in the low post than he has in his nine previous NBA seasons, while also driving hard to the rim much more frequently than when Rose is on the floor, Deng has certainly looked like a #1 option the last 3 games:
24/46 FG 52.2%
23/30 FT 76.7%
Throw in a true shooting percentage of .617 and an effective field goal percentage of .543, and Deng is doing an outstanding job of showing he is more than just the "glue guy" who can't create offense for himself or his teammates.
Bulls fans seem to be near-unanimous in feeling that Deng won't be a Bull after this season because his salary will be too much for the team to bear. As I have all along, I still call "bull shit" on that line of thinking.
Deng is still one of the best defenders in the league, having no problem guarding most SG, SF and PF in the league. While some SG are too quick for Deng, he is finally using his size advantage to take advantage of those players on the other end by abusing them in the low post.
Deng isn't big or strong enough to handle some PF, but he can take them out to the 3-point line and abuse them with his driving ability on offense. And once Nikola Mirotic comes to the NBA next summer, the Bulls will be able to run a lineup of Rose, Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler, Deng and Mirotic that will be their best offensive unit since 1998.
I know a lot of Bulls fans are hoping for a tank job this season, and right after the Rose injury I even explained the advantages of doing just that. But that depends on the Bulls' not planning to resign Deng next summer, which I still believe they will.
Lots of non-intelligent Bulls fans may not appreciate Deng and what he brings to the team, but his teammates do.
The front office does.
And as Deng's minutes played over the last few seasons will attest to, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau certainly appreciates Deng's talents.