The Chicago Bulls will get a huge boost in the 2013-2014 NBA season without making any signings in free agency for the simple fact that their star point guard, Derrick Rose, will return from an ACL injury that kept him out all of last season.
In addition to Rose’s return, the Bulls have re-signed reserve big man Nazr Mohammed and landed Mike Dunleavy in one of the best value deals thus far in free agency. Now the Bulls are continuing to work in-house as they are talking contract extension with their work-horse small forward, Luol Deng, according to reports from Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
Last season on the Bulls, Deng played in started in 75 games and logged 38.7 minutes per game, the most of any player in the NBA. For the year he averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.1 steals per game, but shot just 42.6 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from long range.
The thing that Deng brings to the Bulls is the embodiment of what their team philosophy is. Deng is a warrior on the floor and is a terrific defender. Last season, opponents shot just 39.5 percent when Deng was the primary defender in the play and turned the ball over on 9.2 percent of those possessions. He’s great on the ball, interrupting passing lanes and in terms of closing out on shooters.
However, Chicago needs to be extremely careful in their talks with Deng about an extension. If what it takes to re-sign Deng is a deal that pays him around the $14 million he’s due next season per year, the Bulls seriously need to consider not extending Deng.
There’s no doubt that Deng is one of the key contributors on this Bulls team, but he’s also endured a ridiculous amount of work in a short time. Over the past four seasons, Deng has averaged 37.9 minutes or more per game and has been in the top-12 in the league in minutes per game in each of those seasons as well.
The reason that’s a real issue is that it seems that the workload has started to affect his play. In the 2009-2010 season, Deng shot 46.6 percent from the field. The next year, he shot 46 percent. In 2011-2012, though, Deng’s shooting percentage dropped to 41.2 percent and then was the meager 42.6 percent this past season.
More than that, logging that many minutes is going to take a toll on Deng’s ability to be an effective defender. When you’re putting that many miles on a guy’s legs in such a short time, he’s eventually going to slow down.
Unless the Bulls plan on limiting Deng’s minutes more in the future if they extend him, which seems unlikely with Tom Thibodeau coaching, he’s not worth a high-dollar extension. There’s no denying that Deng has value to the Bulls and for a lot of NBA teams, but the price definitely has to be right. If the Bulls and Deng can’t settle on a reasonable price, Chicago should choose to not extend the 28-year-old, especially with a young, talented wing like Jimmy Butler on the roster.