Derrick Rose is out, and he is not coming back to the Chicago Bulls for a while. In his absence, his fans will look to a different man to lead them. A man who has the potential, but has yet to prove that he is capable of leading. A man who has quietly become one of the best in the league at his position. A man named Luol Deng.
Deng has what it takes to lead the Chicago Bulls throughout the 2012-13 NBA season. His skills as a defender are hard to match around the league, and he has become a pretty good player on the offensive end of the floor as well.
Despite the presence of other good players on the team like Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, Deng has solidly positioned himself as the No. 2 man on this roster. Now, though, he must transition into the No. 1 spot as Rose recovers from injury.
Fits the System
Unlike many other players who may be the second option on their teams, Luol Deng is one of the best defenders in the league. In fact, his defense is clearly superior to his offense. In some situations, that might be a negative.
Luckily for Deng, he plays for Tom Thibodeau who values defense above all else. It is this ability to play within the system set out for him that will enable Deng to lead this team effectively.
This Bulls’ team relies on defense to win, and that is why they have been one of the best teams in the league over the past few seasons. Deng has been a huge part of that. The British citizen always draws the toughest defensive assignment on the team, and he always makes that opposing player’s offensive life a living hell.
At 6’9” tall and weighing 220 pounds, Deng has the length to challenge even the tallest and longest players combined with the light-footed speed necessary to cover faster guards on the perimeter. These attributes are why Deng is an elite defender, and he is a big reason why the Chicago Bulls are an elite defensive team.
Dude’s Got Game
Many have discussed Deng’s offensive game like he did not even know how to shoot or something. The truth is that, while Deng is far from an elite scorer, he can do some pretty nice things on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Check out this video, and notice how many good things Deng does on both sides of the ball:
As you can tell, Deng is a pretty complete player. Not only does he disrupt the Boston Celtics’ offense consistently, but he also does a great many things on offense. He leads the fast break, hits clutch shots and creates shots both off the dribble and without the ball.
You might be thinking something like, “Fine. So what if Deng has game? We still do not know what he will play like when Rose is gone and all the pressure is on his shoulders.”
Oops, sorry. I forgot to mention that the footage you just watched was in a game without Rose. Plus, it was played against one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference. Deng has the skills to lead this team and make big plays for it.
One thing that no one can deny about the city of Chicago is that it is a blue-collar town predicated on hard work and toughness. Another reason that Deng is more than fit to lead the Bulls in Rose’s absence is his understanding and embracing of that mentality.
As you could see from the previous video, Deng is always working hard on defense, something that any true fan has to love. Just in case you are not convinced, check out the video of this play:
That is nothing more than a hustle play. Deng used his toughness and perseverance to be in a position to make that play.
Learning more about Deng’s background should clue you in if you are not convinced. He and his family were refugees from Sudan, who traveled to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Egypt, the Deng family met Manute Bol, who you might remember as one of the tallest centers in NBA history.
Bol became a mentor for Deng and his brother, Ajou, and taught them about the game of basketball. Deng moved to the United Kingdom, where he worked on his craft until he was good enough to play in the United States. He has been working hard ever since.
Deng identifies with the working man because he is a much more extreme version of him. Growing up in multiple foreign cultures is hard enough. Becoming a world class athlete in the process is downright impossible.
As you can see from this tweet, Deng embodies that working man mindset in his private life as well.
They be looking at me like why is he in the first class. But I swear if it wasn't for the leg room I wouldn't be in the first class.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) September 15, 2012
Not only does Deng not identify with the wealthy, he does not even want to sit with them.
Maybe that is a weird example, but it is a good example of how Deng personifies the tough, hard-working perseverance that has come to define the city of Chicago. That mentality is the biggest reason why Deng can lead this team. Derrick Rose is a native of Chicago, which is why he is so identifiable with the city. The team needs a player who can fill that role as well, and Deng is the guy.
Ultimately, whether Deng leads this Bulls team successfully is up to him. The role will be his for the taking, and only he can determine what he does with it. However, there is one thing that there is no question about.
Luol Deng is more than qualified to lead this team. His skills and mentality make him a prime candidate for the job, along with the fact that he fits into the team culture and scheme so well. Few people notice Deng because of his humility and ability to invisibly power the machine that is the Chicago Bulls. And that is exactly why he is fit to lead them.