Chicago Bulls: Is Luol Deng Underrated?

Ernest Shepard@@ernestshepardAnalyst IIIJanuary 10, 2012

When he is not making key shots, Luol Deng is playing key defense on stars such as Kobe Bryant.
When he is not making key shots, Luol Deng is playing key defense on stars such as Kobe Bryant.Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls doesn't wow anyone with his numbers.  He doesn't fill up the ESPN highlight reels, he just comes out and plays his game. 

His game is as quiet as he is. No flash nor shine, just a ton of substance to it. 

"I thought his rebounding was very good.  I thought he went after it a lot more...", Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's postgame comments about Deng's performance is a microcosm of Luol Deng's career in Chicago. 

For many basketball fans who don't follow the Bulls. the thinking is that they begin and end with reigning MVP Derrick Rose.  That he is a one-man show in Chicago.  While Rose is the closer of the team without question, the Bulls could not compete without the efforts of Luol Deng.

Normally a player who averages 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game isn't necessarily considered a game changer; that does not describe Luol Deng's impact. 

Going back to the key steal and block on Kobe Bryant in the season opener, Deng's clutch play came on the side of the dirty work.  Another key example was Deng coming to life in the third quarter of the Minnesota game last night and scoring nine points during a Timberwolves run to keep the Bulls in front.

It is this type of effort that gets lost in translation.  When you look at some of the more recent NBA championship teams, you will always find a player similar to Deng who silently does a little bit of everything.

Dallas had Jason Terry, the Lakers had Lamar Odom.  These are career sidekicks who are more than  capable of carrying their respective teams.  You cannot win without their contributions, even though their contributions never show up in the newspapers.

You can look at a player's stat-sheet and you sometimes marvel at the fact that he scored 30 points.  The biggest question is when did he score his points?  Were they scored during garbage time?  Did he collect the rebound when his team needed it most? 

The answers go a long way in defining a player.  Without the eight rebounds Deng grabbed in the fourth quarter alone in the Timberwolves game, the Bulls may perhaps have fallen short in Minnesota. 

Compile that with Deng's fourth-quarter defense on budding star Kevin Love (only three points), and you have two key components to the Bulls win.

You also have the impact of a player who is far deserving of his first NBA All-Star selection.  His grossly underrated contributions make him perhaps the most underrated player in the NBA, yet Luol Deng is a quiet star on the verge of gaining overall respect in the league.