Luol Deng Injury Will Keep Chicago Bulls from Getting No. 1 Playoff Seed in East

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Luol Deng Injury Will Keep Chicago Bulls from Getting No. 1 Playoff Seed in East
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls' small forward Luol Deng has a torn ligament in his left wrist which will keep him out for awhile.

Without Deng off the floor for a long period of time, the Bulls will surely lose their No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

The 26-year-old Deng, born in South Sudan and a British citizen, is clearly the Bulls' second-best player behind superstar point guard Derrick Rose.

A great defender and a strong slasher, Deng has been putting together an All-Star caliber season before he injured his wrist Jan. 21 against the Charlotte Bobcats. The seven-year veteran from Duke was averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said earlier this week that Deng's injury couldn't have come at a worse time as he was working hard this year.

Thibodeau said Deng would be "week-to-week," but a torn ligament suggests Deng will miss more time than expected.

A Bulls team without Deng for a long period will have some serious problems winning at the 84 percent clip they have maintained. Deng is Chicago's second scoring option behind Rose and helps spread the floor with a decent three-point shot.

Deng is a great defender who could slow down some of the NBA's elite scorers in the Miami Heat's LeBron James and New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony.

Deng's superb defensive skills were on full display when he beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas with a key steal and blocked Kobe Bryant's potential game-winning bucket.

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Thibodeau will most likely go with backup Ronnie Brewer at the 3 position while Kyle Korver and rookie Jimmy Butler will share some time off the bench.

While Brewer and the Bench Mob are good players, they do not have the same skill level as Deng.

Brewer has become a better offensive player this year, but he lacks Deng's explosive drive and adds 10 points instead of 20. Korver can be hot or cold, while Butler has yet to see significant action.

If Deng is injured for the long haul, there will be more pressure on Rose, who is also suffering from turf toe on his big left toe and has missed five games this season. Rose has played heavy minutes under Thibodeau and would probably be asked to play more with Deng sidelined.

While the Bulls have been successful without Rose, much of that was on Deng's stepping up and becoming the floor leader by default. 

The Bulls currently have a 2.5 game lead over the Atlanta Hawks and a 3.0 game lead over the Heat, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. Playing without Deng for a long stretch would allow teams like the Heat or 76ers to overtake the Bulls for the top seed.

Not having your second-best player will be crippling for the Bulls and opposing teams will take advantage of that point by pressuring Rose more.

As Deng sits on the pine all suited up and cheering on his teammates, fans will finally see how important the South Sudanese baller is to this Bulls squad when Chicago loses hold of their top seed.

 

Bob Bajek is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.

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