Luol Deng should be given this year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Not Dwight Howard, not Andre Iguodala. Luol Deng.
The Chicago Bulls small forward epitomizes head coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive system.
He's not going to register massive numbers of blocks or steals, but there is no better on-ball defender than Deng.
Watching Deng in a game, it is easy to see why he is so good defensively. He has the height and strength to guard even the tallest at his position and the speed to stay with the fastest.
And there is no other player in the NBA who can control what LeBron James does on the offensive end without ending up in foul trouble. Nobody stops James these days, but Deng gets closer than anyone and really makes the Miami Heat superstar work for every single shot.
Deng's consistent ability to remain in front of his man and hassle every single shot makes him the perfect player to receive the DPOY trophy at season's end.
Dwight Howard has won it three years running and is still a fantastic defender, but he has been inconsistent and nowhere near as dominant as he has been in years gone by.
Andre Iguodala has broken through as a great defensive player, but his team's defense overall is not quite as good, and these awards are normally given to the best players on the best teams.
Deng, of course, owes a lot to Coach Thibodeau and his Bulls teammates. Thibodeau's arrival from the Boston Celtics staff heralded a new beginning in the franchise's playing style as the first-time head coach installed his system and instilled belief in his players that they could hold every single team to incredulously low scores night in, night out if they played hard enough.
It worked. The group of Deng, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik finished the season as the best defensive group in the entire NBA. A group of Deng, Watson, Brewer, Gibson and Joakim Noah was only a few spots behind.
The Bulls' team defense should be watched again and again by any team looking to become defensive experts. The players move on a string as if connected to one another. Switching players is the norm, as the team forces bad passes and very bad shots that often lead to turnovers or misses.
Another reason, although slightly unrelated to the DPOY award, is Deng's on-court leadership. Derrick Rose may be the leader offensively, and Noah may be the leader in the locker room, but Deng has shone through this season as the coach's security blanket, playing over 35 minutes in even the biggest of blowouts.
This signifies a huge level of trust in his players by Thibodeau, and in return, the rest of the team look towards Deng to make the big defensive stops needed in the crunch time of marquee games.
Deng has been a decent defender for years, but often overlooked in this award simply because the Bulls were not known for defense and because Deng was out of the limelight for a long time.
Now, on the heels of his first All-Star appearance, could Luol Deng become the first British player to collect one of the NBA's biggest awards?
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