Luol Deng is Mr. Do It All for the Chicago Bulls. Need some perimeter defense? Sick ’em, Luol. Need some rebounding? Deng’s got some extra glass-cleaner for you.
Now, with Derrick Rose out, the Bulls need some more scoring and facilitating. So score and facilitate Deng has done.
In the six games since Rose got hurt in Portland, Deng has averaged 26 points and 6 assists per game. As usual, coach Tom Thibodeau has asked Deng to step up and play more minutes. After not playing more than 39 minutes in the first 10 games of the season, Deng has played over 40 minutes in four of the six games since Rose was hurt, including an insane 55 minutes in a triple-overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans (Thibodeau mercifully took Deng out of the game in the third overtime period after Deng was reportedly evaporating from exhaustion and dehydration).
And per usual, Deng has taken the defensive assignment of the opponent’s best perimeter player each game, without Jimmy Butler in the lineup to alleviate some of that stress. Deng’s usage rate has gone up as well, being in the mid to high-20s since Rose’s injury after being around 20% early on in the season.
Deng’s strong play could actually hasten his departure from Chicago, if he is going to be traded this season. Bulls management has to see Deng’s play and feel that his trade value won’t be much higher at any point this year. If he is traded soon, the team trading for him would get his strong play for the majority of the season, so they may worry less about Deng leaving after the season.
Trading Deng now, before he picks up any major injury (and as I type this, Deng is dealing with an Achilles problem and may miss some games) would make sense for Chicago. Bulls management needs to take a firm stance on what their plan for the future is with Rose currently out. If they are going to blow it up and try and rebuild, then do it soon. Get some younger players with potential, some cap relief, and maybe (fingers crossed) another draft pick in this year’s loaded draft. The first round pick the Bulls own from the Charlotte Bobcats could potentially land the Bulls an All-Star level player in the future.
For now, though, Deng is doing what he always does, and that is play his tail off and continue to do all that is asked for him, at a relatively high level. I hope Bulls fans are appreciating what he does for the team every night.
Unfortunately, in the NBA, circumstances override sentiment, and Deng may be putting together one of his best stretches in his swan song as a Bull.
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