Anyone who watches a ton of Chicago Bulls basketball has a love/hate relationship with Luol Deng. At times, his defense and outside shooting fill the stat sheet and pour in numbers that make you think he is a legitimate second star. Then, there are the awkward games where he can't make a jump shot, he can't get to the rim, and he looks like he's well into his mid 30's.
So when a guy is approaching 30 years old, which version of Lu do you expect to see in the coming years?
Place your admiration and respect aside a minute and think logically.
When Luol Deng's season ends, with most likely a solid 16 ppg, 7 rebs, and a ton of minutes, Deng will no longer have a contract, and will be 29 years old. At that point in his career, Deng will be looking for security in the form of another 4 year deal to play somewhere. The Chicago Bulls won't be able to afford that deal.
And thankfully so...
The eastern conference features a wealth of young talent at Deng's position, including none other than Jimmy Butler on the Chicago Bulls. Add in Lebron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, and you have quite a logjam of players far superior in ability to Lu, while having a very similar player in Butler but 5 years younger and millions cheaper.
The Bulls also want to work a Nickola Mirotic into the lineup in the next couple of years. And, further down the line, the Bulls need to make sure they can keep Derrick Rose from making any "decisions" about where he wants to try to win a ring. To keep him here, they need to find him a running mate, and Lu Deng's days of running are dwindling, despite being overvalued in the NBA.
Let's not forget recent history. The past two seasons, Luol Deng has had a great opportunity to be team leader. In the playoffs last year, after Derrick Rose went down, all he managed to do against Philadelphia and an injured Iguodala was 14 ppg. This season before the spinal tap? 13.8 ppg. Both of these were without Derrick Rose, and when the team needed a major scoring lift every night, yet Deng was and is not capable of doing that in an NBA that requires you to score the basketball.
Compare that with the year he received his big contract after a 22.2 ppg playoff run, including a sweep of the then NBA champion Miami Heat, and you can see a noticeable downward trend.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA except for downward trending statistics. Luol Deng, despite playing more minutes than anybody over the last several years, has diminished his statistical output, and also suffers from the injury bug far too often.
Its time to explore deals. Here is a list of players I'd like to see in Chicago:
- Kevin love
- Eric Gordon
- Nicolas Batum
- Monta Ellis
Get it done, Bulls