The Chicago Bulls (15-3) have zoomed out to the NBA’s best record so far this season. Surprisingly, PG Derrick Rose hasn’t been the biggest reason. Why? A toe injury suffered by the reigning MVP and the stellar play at both ends of the court by Luol Deng. The Sudan native’s gritty play has been the glue holding the team together amidst the five games Rose has missed with a toe injury. The Bulls are a remarkable 4-1 in their superstar’s absence.
Through the season’s first 18 games, Coach Tom Thibodeau has leaned heavily on “Lu”, asking the eight-year veteran to play the vast majority of each game. Lieutenant Deng currently leads the NBA in total minutes, at an average of 38.3 per game.
At 6 feet 9 inches, Deng is a lockdown defender, who spreads the floor with his shooting range and is always a threat to attack the rim. “That’s the value in Lu…” Thibs said after a multi-position effort in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats. “There’s nothing he doesn’t do well.”
The former Duke Blue Devil is averaging 15.9 PPG in a well-balanced Bulls offense. The 2007 NBA Sportsman award recipient is also second in the League in rebounding among small forwards with a career high 7.5 RPG, trailing only Miami Heat SF LeBron James.
Throughout his career, Deng has consistently been the first or second most valuBULL. Incredibly, the do-it-all forward has yet to appear in an All-Star Game. That figures to end this season, but it begs the question. Is Luol Deng the most underrated player in the game?
Several competitors for that distinction exist, including: Portland Trailblazers’ PF LaMarcus Aldridge, sharp-shooting Orlando Magic PF Ryan Anderson and Houston Rockets PG Kyle Lowry, among others. The argument can be made that Lu is the most underappreciated of the bunch. Especially from the perspective of those in Chicago that have seen his career trajectory and understand how important no. 9 has been to the team.
Deng (wrist) will likely sit out tonight’s game at the United Center against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets (5-12). The team would be taking the court without Deng for the first time all season. According to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, DRose has been telling people that he plans to return to action tonight. As for the rest of the banged up Bulls, PF Taj Gibson (ankle) is likely out, C Joakim Noah (ankle) will be a game-time decision, while PG John Lucas III (groin) should rejoin a suddenly crowded backcourt.
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