Luol Deng's the second most important player on this team

Luol Deng's the second most important player on this team

Isn't that an odd thing to think?   Luol Deng?   The guy we wanted to trade away because of his contract?    The guy who's been called soft, fragile, and bitched about incessantly since the 07/08 season?     Luol Deng?   The guy who can't create his own shot or hit threes?   Luol Deng?   The guy who's not athletic enough to defend anyone?

Yeah.   That Luol Deng.

Even in retrospect those thoughts made sense (at the time)

Luol Deng couldn't stay healthy, create his own shot, shoot threes, or defend in Del Negro's scheme.    If there's any single thing that shows you how wretched of a coach that Vinny Del Negro was, it's that Luol Deng frequently looked like a liability on defense much of the time last season and looks like a 1st team all defensive player this season.

It was fair to wonder if he'd ever stay healthy.   If he could handle the minutes.  If he could expand his game to work better with Derrick Rose.

Deng answered most of the questions

I still don't think Luol can create his shot in an isolation situation, but everything else has been accomplished.   Perhaps the most important factor of all is health.  We were all scared of Deng wearing down over the course of the season.  Not Tom Thibodeau who's got Deng amongst the highest in the league in minutes per game.

We had some hope that he'd shoot threes after hitting a good percentage last season even if the volume was low.   Wrap your mind around this.  Luol Deng is in his seventh year in the NBA.   He's made 110 threes this season in less than a full season.   In the previous six seasons, Deng knocked down a total of 101 threes combined.

Is there another player out there who knocked down more threes in his seventh (or later) season than in his previous first six?    That's simply an incredible improvement in confidence and shows a lot of work on his game this off season.

Watching Deng defend in great defensive scheme is a think of beauty.   He makes quick decisions, knows his responsibilities, and makes the right play almost all the time.   Deng's opponent simply isn't going to get many easy shots off against him.

There are guys who can work him over occasionally, but he makes them work hard at it.   No one's going up against Luol and having an easy time.  They're in for a long night of well contested shots.

Looking at what Deng brings to the table, he's pretty irreplaceable

If we woke up tomorrow and found out that one of Boozer, Noah, or Deng was going to miss the rest of the season, I'm not sure whom I'd pick, but I am sure that it wouldn't be Luol Deng.  

The Bulls, quite honestly, need his shooting.   They need his perimeter defense.  They need his off the ball movement to help loosen up the opposing defense.

They've already proven they can live without Boozer or Noah for stretches and still compete with the best teams in the league.   They have plenty of front court depth, and I trust Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, and Kurt Thomas to play in expanded roles if necessary.

There really is no one to replace Luol Deng on this team.

Deng might be the best system guy in the NBA

By that, I mean he's a guy who relies on the system in place on both ends of the floor.  He doesn't have the shot creation or raw athleticism to kill guys without a good scheme.  However, when playing inside a good scheme, he's a great player.

When looking at the results of Deng under Skiles and Thiobdeau, you see a player who really impacts the game on both ends of the floor in a big way.   Against Miami a few years ago in the playoffs, they simply had no answer for Luol Deng.   

Under Thibodeau, Deng has provided a ton.  He's often the glue piece to help the bench mob through in transition, he thrives off the ball, and he plays great defense.

Under Del Negro, we wanted to ship him off the team for a couple of rolls of toilet paper and a conditional third round pick in case they ever institute a third round again.

Final thoughts

In a season dominated by Derrick Rose, it's worth looking at some of the other great stories around the team.   Luol might not win any awards.  I think his best shot is an NBA all defensive selection (probably 2nd or 3rd team).   He was never down enough to get a comeback player or most improved.

While we all know Rose has been the key to this remarkable season, he couldn't have done it this year without Deng.  

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Amen Brother!

  • In reply to johcoh:

    Amen again.

    As soon as I read the blog title I raced to simply say "Amen." You beat me to it.

    Clearly, Luol Deng is #2 on this team. He's having his best season ever.

    Amen Brother!

  • I think another thing that often goes overlooked like Deng's play this season is how this team never seems to be in foul trouble. Sure, Kurt Thomas may go in there and get 3-4, sometimes 5. But he's a reserve and when he fouls it's a nice, hard, make 'em pay sort of foul. This team is something special, can't wait for the playoffs!

  • The problem with Deng is as you say he is a system guy. If Rose doesn't involve him in the game or goes MJlike, Deng can become passive or lose his rhythm on offense. That is the worry during the playoffs. I know it is the case with anyone but Boozer seems to get his offense back after 2 quarters of sucking. The reason I mention offense is that's where the Bulls can get into trouble.
    But the positive thing is defense is always there for Deng this year. Honestly, I feel he is almost the best 3 pt shooter on the team as he makes some clutch(momentum-changing)3 pointers compared to Bogans and Korver against good opponents.
    Finally, I think the continuity of a system means he becomes smart and great at that. So, look out for Deng to be more impressive next year if he is healthy.

  • Theres no question about Deng being a good player, It's his consistency in being that good player on both ends of the floor from game to game that's the problem. He is definitely a system player and in the right system, we all see games like he had last night. And again, it's about him bringing that type of game last night every night.

  • fb_avatar

    We expect these guys to be superhuman sometimes. Medical science is great, but it can sometimes take a year or more to recover from an injury and go back to a job as - say - a mail carrier. So, maybe we should give these guys the benefit of the doubt a little bit when they're trying to recover and return to a job competing against the best athletes in the world for 82 games.

    Who said, "when a guy says he's hurt, I believe him."?

    That'd be Vinny Del Negro. He was talking about one or another of our plantar facitis cases from last season, but I thought about Deng when he said it. I'm really glad Deng's been able to put together a healthy season. Vinny recognized his value just as much as Thibs does, Vinny just didn't use him as well. Under VDN, Deng played the same closed to 40 min per game, averaged 17/7 and was matched up defensively against the opponent's best perimeter guy. He was an anchor for Vinny as much as Thibs, but he was hurt, and Vinny's system didn't fit so well.

    I'm not trying to revise history here - I was on the trade Deng bandwagon last year as well. But the entire Bulls organization trusts Deng immensely. JR placed his bet on Deng, not Gordon as the guy to make a cornerstone of the franchise. Vinny knew Deng was valuable. D-Rose refused to throw Deng under the bus and go dance for Lebron. Thank goodness the Deng they saw everyday in the Berto center is finally on the court for all of Chicago to appreciate.

  • Dengs the perfect role player in my mind with everything he brings to the table. I think the gripe with his salary is he really is paid like a top 2 player on most teams. I agree in the Bulls situation Deng is less replaceable than Boozer or Noah, but its really a by-product of all the depth in the front court.

    This is off topic but Deng would actually fit perfectly on the Lakers in place of Artest as I see them structured similarly to the Bulls-with their depth of bigs and primary scorer at the guard position. Would you have accepted a trade of Artest/Odom for Deng and Gibson/filler before the season? Now??

  • I wonder how good Melo would have been in our D scheeme. I bet he would ask for it to be less complicated. We dodged a bullet on that one.

  • if deng's the bulls' 2nd most important player that statement underscores how great rose is. nobody but rose is 'important.'

  • In reply to dubsdread18:

    I think that Doug has reversed the Rose/Deng effect to the Deng/Rose effect. Deng doesn't open up the offense for
    Rose, Rose(AND Thibs actually haveing an offense) has opened up the game for Deng to fill his role.

    I would take/keep NOah in a heartbeat over Deng. Deng over Boozer without too much thought. and most importantly Thibideau over Del Bimbo for everyone involved.

    Rose and Thibideau are the reasons that we are heading for 60 wins not the 50 that most people were hoping a praying for in the preseason.

    and for what it is worth, Deng still cannot defend 2 guards, except maybe Bogans in practice, nothing wrong with that he was never a 2 guard as many had tried to suggest that he could be.

  • I just read something on ESPN(5 on 5) that basically says Pierce is a better defender than Deng on LeBron James. It is just human nature, I guess in the NBA. They always want to pick the old/ripe flavor than the actual/real flavor available. It is really bad when professional journalists don't watch the actual games to come to a conclusion and do it like a homer/casual fan. The same is going on with Rose's MVP campaign.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I read that too and had the same thoughts. I doubt if many of those guys actually watch Bulls games during the season. Also, maybe I'm just not up on Pierce, but whether you know anything about Deng or not, I don't ever remember Pierce being recognized as a great defender.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    Pierce is considered a good defender, especially when he brings the effort. He's brings the street into the equation, as he loves to guard people like LeBron because he can get into their head a little bit. He's got a little bit of Rodman in him. And he can get some calls from the ref, as he can act. But he's long in the tooth, and Deng has clearly overtaken him if you simply look at defensive skill AND effort. Funny, both players are similar, as both are considered to be very smart yet only moderately athletic players. And both, of course, are key to their teams' success.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    I'm kind of surprised that everyone thinks so little of Deng given he was the best player on a 49 win team. For a couple of yeas after that with his injuries I think we were all down on him, but even last year he was mostly healthy and played pretty well.

    Deng is a glue guy without that being the usual insult to suggest he brings nothing else to the table. He's a glue guy in that he brings everything else to the table. If you need him to hit jump shots, slash, rebound, defend either forward position (and some SGs), he can do it. He'll just fit in and do what's asked of him. Some people say he's invisible like it's a fault, but that's his role, to just play a part. You need guys who play off the ball and score when the chances are there (which obviously means you'll go stretches where your man sticks to you and you don't do anything).

    What I find interesting is that when Thibs was brought on to be coach he mentioned Deng as a key piece everyone was "I guess this means we're never dumping Deng" accompanied by a rolling of eyes. Thibs obviously saw this from Deng from the outset though.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    Actually Pierce has played Lebron really well in the playoffs the last couple of years. I'm not saying he's a better defender then Deng, but against Lebron he's been really good.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    What is odd is that everytime Deng is mentioned by the media in a possible trade (most recently for Melo), the other team reportedly does not want him at all.

  • In reply to bulls6:

    This is probably the same kind of fans who are screaming at their loudest like MrHappy about Deng. Also, as Shakes says below "most" media/fans just watch highlights where they show the person handling the ball/protecting the paint and don't really see the things going on without the ball(I admit I don't either). But, have they asked a coach about this? Ex: Consider Rudy Gay, Josh Smith or even Artest, Richard Jefferson, Marion, Turkoglu..most people would pick those guys or say it is even in a match-up against Deng. He is not a Point Forward kind of player or he does some things which are much better than the other guys. If you have a top 10 list of things a SF does, he doesn't do the top 3 things a typical SF does. That probably plays into people not wanting him.
    And as Doug says he is a great system guy. He is more of a missing piece than a building piece which means he probably he doesn't fit on a lot of teams. Deng would have fit great on Miami or Lakers but not on Boston because Ray Allen doesn't create much.

  • In reply to bulls6:

    GO A STEP FARTHER:

    Luol Deng is the 2nd most important player on the Bulls...

    ...because he needs to score in the 2nd Half of games, especially in the 4th Qrt.

    FYI: The Bulls have 15 losses when Luol Deng scores 5 pts. or less in the 4th.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    here's a stat
    we lose 100% of the time when the other team scores more than we do. Face it, Deng has been at his best this season and is a great complimentary player for Rose. I can't think of many small forwards I would rather have right now. My only concern about him in the past was his injuries but this year he has been healthy. Great guy and a solid player.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    i was always impressed with deng. but i was actually worried at the start of this year because it looked like he had gained some weight and was slower. he proved me wrong though

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    OHH my goodness !! Boozer played D yersterday ! he blocked shots. he was even jumping when his man taked shots.

    Awesome win for the bulls !!damn, it feels happy to be a bulls fan !

    I've to acknowledge it : deng is the 2nd most important player of this team. he've done much more than boozer and noah this season !!

  • In reply to deewaves:

    HE blocked shot(s) as in plural, and the one that he got to, Rose knocked out of the guys hand first so that it wasn't actually a shot by the time BGBZR got to it.

    He has certainly been healthier than Noah this year, we will see come the playoffs who is more important.

    My sense is that if Deng had been injured like Noah or Boozer, Thibs would have found a way to make it work with a combination of Brewer and Korver.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    And people wondered why he was the first guy to get extended several years ago...

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Deng has been very good for us and plays some great D and bothers people with his length, including his long arms like Brewer!

    Boozer played some of the best B-Ball I've seen him play on the Bulls, almost entirely when KG wasnt on him as we all know he doesn't like taller athletic guys guarding him but who really does.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Excellent post Doug about my fellow Brit.

    [I have written previously that I believe his contract was excessive; but you look at what the Hawks had to do to keep Joe Johnson and you can kinda understand why the Bulls had to pay him so well to keep him at a time when contracts were on a vicious upward trend. Now I don't really focus too much on what someone gets paid - every team will have players who are perceived to be overpaid and others (Taj for eg) who are really good value. I think you have to look at the team as a whole and thats why I support the upcoming harder cap in the next CBA - but all that is an aside.]

    Back to Luol. You can tell he loves being told what to do. He is happy with doing a few things well in a system and not having to freelance. He is a coach's dream. And for him to do as well as he is doing this year he has to be coached. We all agree VDN was no coach - going to the Clippers just really sums up Sterling!! and we saw how well he played under Skiles; so when Thibs signed I'm sure Luol said a quiet prayer of thanks. And as much as Luol needed a coach who would tell him exactly what to do and when to do it Thibs needed his clue guy who would do exactly what he tells him to do and very well to prove the the coach knows what he' talking about. It was a partnership made in heaven. Luol owes his return to form to Thibs and Thibs owes his CY candidacy to Luol. And lets hope this partnership will continue to florish and allow Derrick to do his stuff.

    Btw - if you haven't read this you gotta http://www.nba.com/2011/news/features/04/08/race-to-the-mvp-final-rankings/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1

    I just love this dig at Hollinger et al

    "Resistance is futile -- and at this point, contrarian, self-indulgent and embarrassing. When a numbers fetishist claims that Rose's performance in 2010-11 ranks no higher than sixth place on a five-slot ballot, that person is imagining some other, non-existent award. Go buy a trophy -- say, a big bronze slide-rule -- slap a name on it and hand that out. Just don't call it the MVP."

  • In reply to Jersey66:

    Love that last paragraph.

    I'll admit I was embarassed by the MVP chants in the early season. But since the new year Rose has continued to grow into a legitimate contender first and now the frontrunner.

    With the best record in the east, and the Bulls record against the other contenders in that time his credentials are better than anybody else's, and I have never been a member of the slide rule brigade anyway.

    As the supreme court once said of pornography, I say of the MVP, I may not be able to define it precisely, but I know one/it when I see it.

  • In reply to Jersey66:

    Hollinger mistakenly thinks the award is

  • In reply to Edward:

    mvPER is pretty clever.

    I always held out hope for Deng, and I'm so glad we didn't trade him. There's no way this team gets this far this year without him playing as well as he has.

  • In reply to Edward:

    PER:
    Howard = 26.1
    LeBron = 27.2

    Yet Hollinger says Howard is the MVP ... so much for the mvPER theory.

  • In reply to Jersey66:

    I wonder if you'll praise him as much when he misses 45 games next season because Thibs abused him all season

  • In reply to sabixx:

    I wonder why fans assume they know more about what Deng's body can take than a guy who is in daily contact with the player himself and the team medical staff.

  • In reply to sabixx:

    The biggest reason that we don't hate on Deng this year is precisely that he is no longer the #2 option, so we don't notice him as much.

    If we were still counting on him to be #2 we would be far less happy with the season he is having than we are now.

    I am happy that he has stayed healthy and played well most of the time, but he fooled me once(playoffs Miami) I won't be fooled again.

    As I said for the past several years, he is not even really the 3rd best guy on a champion, he is the 4rth, which is arguable what he is on this team, Rose, Noah, Deng/Boozer, or Boozer/Deng.

    By the way given his defensive effectiveness, I could see Asik moving into that group next season, assuming that Thibs considers him a veteran by next year.

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