Hes been dubbed as the most underrated player in the game and has been the talk of recent trade rumors this off season. Coined the number two option to Derrick Rose by most fans, he also logs in the most minutes by any player in a Bulls uniform game by game in recent memory. He is Luol Deng.
Deng who was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns 7th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft but his rights were traded to the Bulls upon a prior agreement. Since that day, Deng has averaged 16 PPG in 36 MPG while shooting 46% from the field and is consistently one of the league’s better defensive players.
However, for all he has done, he is completely almost unnoticeable. 2 time All Star, All Defensive 2nd Team in 2012 and NBA All Rookie 1st Team in 2004. For a guy that has guarded the likes of Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and LeBron James his entire career, that is without a doubt proof how underrated he is.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau quoted him as “the glue that holds the team together”. Now his contract currently at close to $14 million entering the final year of a 6 year, $71 million deal that he signed in the 2008 off season, the Bulls must find a way somehow to keep Luol Deng even longer.
Hes only 28, so its not like hes at the end of his rope. The Bulls do have some difficulty with the salary cap and are paying penalties as a result of the luxury tax, but next season they should have more flexibility.
With the emergence of Jimmy Butler becoming the new starting shooting guard, it seems that Deng’s minutes will be somewhat cut since Butler can play the small forward position and will the arrival of Mike Dunleavy Jr. Butler is definitely like Deng, but needs to find a consistent shot every night.
These moves alone, will make Deng more valuable to the Bulls down the stretch of games, and could possibly see his scoring numbers definitely go up. The question is, if the Bulls were to re-sign him, how much would the contract be?
It would be more than his last extension, but if hes willing to take a discount, i’m sure the Bulls front office would not mind paying him big time. The questions coming into this season will be if he can stay consistent and healthy since he missed the rest of the series against Brooklyn and the series against Miami.
One way or another in next year’s offseason, the Bulls must find a way to keep Deng in the long term plans to be along side Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No Deng, no championships, period.
Jordan Jaye Sanders
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