There has been a lot of talk as of late revolving around Luol Deng and his future with the Chicago Bulls. Many believe that the Bulls should part ways with the veteran after this season. Luol Deng, who is in the finally year of his contract, is set to make $14.3 million this year before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. Thus, the Bulls will be faced with a very difficult question of whether or not it will be worth it to re-sign Luol Deng.
Many Bulls fans would like to see Chicago move on without Deng as they believe his age (28) and injury history (has played in all 82 games only twice in his nine year career) does not warrant the amount of money he makes. Also, with the emergence of Jimmy Butler in last season’s playoffs some believe that the Bulls have already found their future replacement for Deng, and at a much cheaper cost. However, before some Bulls fans get carried away they must not forget just how large of a role Luol Deng has played in the Bulls success during his time in Chicago.
One of the reasons that Deng will be so hard to replace, if Chicago does decide to part ways with him, is because you can count on him to play just about 40 minutes a game on a nightly basis. Deng has finished in the top five in minutes per games each of the past three seasons, including leading the league the last two years. It will be very hard for Chicago to find another quality player who they can count on to play as many minutes on a nightly basis as Deng does. Although Deng will never lead the team in a major offensive statistic such as points, assists, or rebounds Chicago can always count on him to play upwards of 40 minutes every time he steps onto the court. In fact, Deng averaged an astonishing 44.8 minutes per game in the playoffs, which is three more minutes than MVP LeBron James was averaging in the postseason.
Another way in which Deng’s presence has been incredibly important to Chicago’s success is through his defensive capabilities. Along with playing around 40 minutes each night, Deng is also called upon to guard the opposing teams top offensive threat. Not only is Deng leading his team in minutes played per game, but he is doing so while guarding some of the best talent that the NBA has to offer. As a small forward in the Eastern Conference Deng is faced with the challenge of guarding players like LeBron James, Carmello Anthony, Paul Pierce and Paul George for basically the entire game.
Although nearly $14.3 million is a lot of money to pay someone who averages 16 points per game, Deng does so much more than just score which is why Chicago is going to be facing such a difficult decision next summer. From a financial point of view the best move for Chicago may be to part ways with Deng, but it will be very hard to find a replacement who will be as valuable to the team as Deng is.
Jon Keller is a writer for rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkell2005.