Just how much can Luol Deng help?

I'll kill the suspense immediately: A lot.

The 6'9 forward is healthy, motivated by a new coach and is rounding out his offensive game to complement the current make-up of the Chicago Bulls.

Stepping into his seventh NBA season, it's clear Deng would like to quiet his doubters.

Deng has often been criticized for his lack of health, his lack of athleticism and lack of long-range shooting. But one thing no sane person would ever critique him for, is how hard he works. Coming into the NBA at age 19, Deng (as every rookie does) tried to do everything at once. He wanted to be whatever he could, but had no idea how to go from point A to B. In just two summers Deng drastically improved his jumpshot from inside the arc, found a way to establish himself on the boards and improved his defense to the point where his name on the gamenight roster, made his opponent breathe a sigh of annoyance and frustration.

Having long arms, good footwork and an understanding of how to avoid your opponent from reaching specific areas on the floor, is bound to give results, and Deng is doing just that. That's why the addition of head coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the most intriguing prospects of the Chicago Bulls off-season. Thibodeau is known for having elite defensive abilities in his strategy, with a tool like Deng out there, Thibodeau's toolbox is projected to be packed.

Deng not only provides defensive help. Often forgotten, Deng is a talented offensive player who moves well without the ball, and has a high percentage mid-range shot. Last season, he attempted a career-high 4.7 free throws per contest by cutting and moving his way into the path of the basket. With Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver in town, Deng is now getting a chance to free himself from his defender, while not expecting to get double-teamed when he enters the lane. If the defense doubles anyway, there's a wide-open Boozer, Rose, Korver or Joakim Noah one pass away. In many ways, Deng will be the Bulls most important off-ball mover and creator. His movement helps throw the defense off track, which undoubtedly create lanes for Rose.

As mentioned earlier, Deng is a strong rebounder too. Twice he's averaged more than seven rebounds per game for a season, and this year he'll help Noah, Boozer and Taj Gibson own the glass. The Bulls are projected to be the best rebounding team in the league by a large margin, and Deng plays a big part in that. Having bulked up some since entering the league, Deng now takes contact without losing his balance, and this has gone a long way in establishing position.

Always the topic of trade rumours, Deng has survived them all so far and has now learned to focus on himself going forward. General Manager Gar Forman has made it known Deng can approach the Bulls front office if rumours continues to flourish, which should also indicate the Bulls are not looking to move him.

It's a common problem in NBA circles that a player loses credibility with the fanbase if he's involved in rumours on a consistent basis. This shows signs of an organization not being satisfied with that player, but in Deng's case, this couldn't be further from the truth. As a working franchise it's important to look for upgrades, and this year two names that came up shared Deng's position of small forward, and thus, Deng was the subject of rumours. But the Bulls understand his value to the team, and the important talents that he brings to the floor every night. There would be no joy in seeing him pack up his bags and put on a different NBA jersey.

For Deng, this season is a new beginning. He has a head coach who wants, and understands, how to use him. He's healthy. He's motivated, and he finally has a post player to play off of. Deng is becoming what he should have been a long time ago. An offensive third option who is the glue that holds the team together on both a defensive and offensive standpoint.

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  • Cant wait til season tipoff so all our Bulls optimism can be validated! Great article.

  • Nice work Morten.

    L. Deng needs to evolve into P. Pierce, if the Bulls expect to win championships.

    That's the bottom-line.

    If the Bulls' brass doesn't think that can happen, then they need to acquire Melo.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    well it would be nice if ronnie brewer became michael jordan but i don't see that happening either.

    why on earth paul pierce? deng isn't good with the ball but is awesome at moving without the ball, which is something we need on this team. all we need luol deng to be is luol deng.

  • In reply to bullsman24:

    I'm seeing more of a Suns-era Shawn Marion, but with a prettier shot. And despite his capabilities, shouldering less rebounding load.

  • In reply to msalivar:

    and way less athleticism.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    But because Marion is exceptionally athletic, not because Deng lacks athleticism.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Because Marion is exceptionally athletic, not because Deng lacks in athleticism.

  • Although I think the projections are a bit high the post makes a great case for both Noah and Deng. In Noah's case, if you take into account the position he plays, then his value to the team is much greater than the sum of the parts of his game. In Deng's case, he is a player that is underrated probably due to high expectation resulting from his contract.

    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/what-carmelo-anthony-might-cost-the-bulls-besides-money/

    It is interesting to see that Deng's production is actually equal or higher then Carmelo Anthony.

    The glaring thing is how it projects D-Rose. Perhaps the Stevie Francis comparison is not so off base.

  • IMO...Dengs defense is a little bit overrated. Ive seen plenty of times last year where guys just went right around him. His handle is terrible and he cant create anything off the dribble.Thats why my favorite saying the last couple years has been "DENG HE SUCKS" lol Hopefully this new system and new coach can help him or else im ready for him to be traded. Im also hoping he plays well and raises his value so we can unload him at the deadline for Melo.

  • In reply to Csharp:

    well that's the great part about deng in this offense. he doesn't take anyone off the dribble because that's not a strength.

  • In reply to bullsman24:

    I agree.

    Vinnie just had no clue how to utilize Deng, which makes sense since it actually required an offensive system. It seems pretty clear that Thibs understands, and with three guards with good handles and very good passing big men, there's no reason Deng should be creating for himself on the ball unless he's stuck with the shot clock winding down, or if his defender falls asleep on him (which we've seen happen from time to time.)

  • In reply to msalivar:

    Dung will have no excuses this year, Del Bimbo is gone and we have a "genious" type coach, so if he doesn't look better this year then we know that he is the problem.

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Forget Melo! If Deng does that good we should keep him as he will be more cost effective than Melo will be!

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Bulls don't need Melo, they got Deng
    prediction: 70 games palyed, 21 ppg, 7rpg, 3 blks + steals pg, 40 % from 3 pt, 2 3pt mpg

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    That is your prediction for Luol Deng? LOL...a bit ambitious don't you think?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    The Bulls are no where near a champioinship! Thanks to the trainee Paxson!

    "Get Real" the Bulls need Carmelo, he is one of the top players in the NBA! Carmelo, Rose and Boozer give the Bulls a shot at the title!

    The fragile Deng like the weak and fragile Noah give the Bulls a shot at the disabled list! When did these two play a whole season?
    Deng & Noah are grossly over rated and Deng is grossly over paid. GM's with a brain don't want him.

    The Bulls PR in this blog adds up to another pile of Bull. It just stinks!

  • In reply to Alex:

    Maybe the Bulls should hire that circle jerking trainee weakling no shot Alex.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Bigway!

    Your childish reply tells everybody that your will be 12 years soon! Engage your brain and try to respond like an adult!

    Deng and Noah are fragile and weak and have many missed games because of injuries throughout their careers! They are replaceable!

    The Bulls are no where near a chanmpoionship thanks to the trainee Paxson!

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    If Deng can match his all-around numbers from his 3rd season alongside scorers like Rose and Boozer and rebounders like Noah and Boozer, the Bulls will be in REALLY good shape. Scott Skiles used Deng perfectly that season and made a lot of people predict he would become an all-star. He took a step back when injuries hit and when defenses started focusing on him. And his salary makes fans demand more from him than he can really give.

    But with good movement off the ball and defenses focusing on Rose and Boozer, Deng should get the great looks that he got in his 3rd season. He won't get the same number of shots so I wouldn't expect him to score 18.8ppg, but he could get quality looks and score 16 or 17ppg shooting near %50. Those are solid numbers for a 3rd option. Add that to his defense and rebounding and you have the makings of the ideal "glue guy" on a contending team.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    so you think that we have 3 20ppg scorers, I think none is more likely.

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