So it's been roughly a month since the Bulls traded Luol Deng. They've fared better without Deng than with him, but it'd be a great disservice to Deng to connect the dots with such a low level of analysis. For his part, after an initial hot start, Deng's performance has dipped since heading to the Cavaliers likely a bi-product of their team dysfunction as much as anything.
Since the trade, the Bulls are 11-7. They were 10-13 with Deng prior to the trade. Granted six of those 10 wins came prior to Derrick Rose tearing his meniscus, many of the losses also came during the period where the Bulls were missing other players, and were dealing with the initial shock of the Rose injury.
The team was clearly in a bad funk right after the injury prior to bouncing back.
However, the biggest difference between the Bulls record with and without Deng likely isn't Deng himself, it's D.J. Augustin. The Bulls replaced Marquis Teague and his .1 PER with D.J. Augustin and his 16.5. Beyond the overall statistical dominance that Augustin has brought to the table ahead of Teague, he also provides the shooting the Bulls have clearly lacked as a team.
Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell have also played far more minutes and while Dunleavy's shooting numbers have dipped considerably since the trade and Snell's haven't been that great to begin with, team's still have to defend those guys out closer to the three point line than they did Deng. All in all, the Bulls interior scoring seems better in the absence of Deng and better spacing is a part of that.
Without ever being able to produce a consistent three point shot, the Bulls were always going to have some issues given that their other two primary wing players also lacked consistent three point shots.
Rose, Butler, and Deng would have been a terror defensively, but opponents would have happily defended 18 feet and in all the way around the court against that group. This doesn't mean Deng had to go, but Rose certainly isn't going [even if we're scared about his health] and Butler doesn't look like a guy who will cost 12 million dollars.
SFs frequently don't have great three point shots, but PGs and SGs typically do. I've always though an effective offense needs quality three point shooting from two of those three positions on the court most of the time. The Bulls tired to get away with three guys who were below average.
We'll never know for sure how it would have worked, but hopefully Chicago finds a way to address this weakness while adding a multi-dimensional player this off-season. Either someone who can shoot and create off the dribble or a spot up shooter who can also defend. Maybe Tony Snell can qualify as the second of those to things if he improves, but he's far away from that goal right now.
How's Deng look in Cleveland?
These numbers are generally down from his stats as a Bull this season, but they're in-line with what Deng did the previous two years with the Bulls. Some may say the Cavaliers are dragging Deng back down, but I think it's more likely that Deng is just falling back down to the player he's been for most of his prime.
Now Kyrie Irving's either a terrible PG or has simply lost all trust in everyone wearing a yellow uniform, because he hangs onto the ball like its his soul on offense. For a smart player, it's easy to see where a lack of ball movement would cut into one or two easy shots a game for Deng and slow him down a tick, so I won't completely discount the Cleveland factor.
That said, it makes me wonder just what Deng's value will be this off-season. Deng scoffed at a 10 million dollar offer from the Bulls, but looking at Deng play for another team? Looking at the Bulls not really missing him [I certainly don't think they're better without him, but they obviously aren't falling apart to any degree either].
All in all, he looks like the MVP of role players to me. A guy you'd love to have on your team, but not the guy you want to pay big money to. With Chris Grant fired, I'll also be curious to see if Cleveland is committed to resigning Deng if he continues to perform at this level. Prior to Grant going, the Cavs likely would have heaped money at Deng to try and prove themselves right.
They still might. However, with Grant gone they can just throw Deng away and say it was a bad trade by the former GM. All in all, I don't see quality organizations climbing over themselves to offer Deng an eight figure deal which means he may have to choose between big bucks and a nice work environment.
I think Luol Deng has had the opportunity Ben Gordon wishes he had before heading to free agency. A chance to see how crappy it can be to make big bucks in a dysfunctional environment. I'll be curious to see what Deng does with the situation.
I will say this, I wouldn't be surprised if in the long run Deng finds himself regretting turning down the Bulls 3/30 extension. He may get more money, or he may find another good team to go to, but I'm betting he won't get both.
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