Luol Deng has been playing for the Chicago Bulls since he was drafted in 2004 out of Duke University. Since he was drafted, he has played several different roles for the only team he has played for; he was the 6th man his rookie season and his sophomore season, in his third season he started all 82 games and up until the 2010 season when Derrick Rose was drafted, he was the player most thought about when talking about the Bulls.
With Rose taking control of the team upon his arrival, Deng’s role once again changed, this time going from the primary scorer to the secondary scorer and defensive specialist. So the question now is, what is Deng’s role now that Rose is out? Deng is only 27 years old and is the only other NBA All-Star on the team besides Rose which means that he has to fill the role of floor general and leader. In order for him to do this, he has to assert himself at his position and he can do that by playing aggressive. By aggressive I don’t mean that Deng should just blindly shoot more; he is not the most efficient scorer and increasing his shots per game will do nothing for the team. By aggressive I mean that Deng should up his intensity from the small forward position.
Deng is a six-foot, nine-inch forward which gives him a height advantage on many of the smaller guards he is usually in charge of covering and because he is the best defensive perimeter player that Chicago has it is safe to say that his opponent will not get many easy looks at the basket. His lock-down defense is not where he needs to improve on either; it’s a specific aspect of defense; rebounding. Deng has long arms and a long stride, he is a quick and crafty player on the run, if he can utilize these abilities and push the ball in transition, it will lead to more aggressive attacks to the basket and easy buckets.
The average age of Chicago’s starting five is a little under 30 years old, but their core guys are still young and able to push the ball and that’s how they will succeed. But it all starts with Deng, his length and quickness will allow him to grab the defensive boards and run the floor creating space for him to attack the basket, kick it out to a trailing teammate or spot up for the jumper. Either way if the team gets out in transition it will wear the opponent out and make it easier to cover them on defense as well as score on them on offense.
Without Rose, Deng is going to be pushed back into the role as the team’s leader just like he was earlier in his career and if he stays aggressive his teammates will follow and attempt to match his intensity night in and night out.