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The Bulls have fallen out of contention as the franchise with the best storyline in the league. Last season, they were well on their way to beating the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. This season, the biggest question lurking over Thibodeau and Co. is, “How many games might Derrick Rose play?”
The Bulls are creeping through the season with a bit of a San Antonio-esque feeling. They have only lost seven times, racking up 25 wins in the process and sit atop the league in assists, second in rebounds per game and third in points allowed.
But, as structured as the team seems, no one has them coming out of the Eastern Conference, and no one seems to be concerning themselves much with the Bulls. The most important man is just as perplexingly uninteresting.
Luol Deng is and always has been Chicago’s second in charge. Deng has been long overlooked as Rose’s second in command as analysts and fans have vied for a sharpshooter to take the weight of the scoring load off the league’s favorite point guard.
However, the small forward has been likely offense for Rose and the Bulls for far longer than fans are willing to recognize. Deng averaged 17.4 points per game last season along with only 1.9 turnovers per.
However, he may not have readily recognized his role as Chicago’s No. 2, as it seems Joakim Noah or the in-and-out performances of Carlos Boozer may have swiped that spot in conversation. Deng has staked claim to that position quietly and now that Rose has been out of the picture for an extended period of time, that fact can be spotted much more easily.
He is the key to the Bulls’ victories along with everything that made them so successful last season (defense, turnover ratio, speed, offense in transition).