With Derrick Rose out for the first half of the season, the other Chicago starters will be asked to step up their games in different ways and Luol Deng, as the Bulls second All-Star, will be looked to the most.
It would be easy to suggest that Deng just needs to shoot more, but that's probably not the best way for him to help elevate the Bulls offense in the absence of their superstar point guard since he's not the most efficient scorer on the Bulls.
The key for Deng is to be more aggressive without being disruptive. He'll want to help the Bulls generate more points where they wouldn't normally get them. There are primarily three ways that he can do that: being aggressive in transition, passing the ball and cutting to the rim.
Being Aggressive in Transition
The Bulls have been pushing the ball more in the preseason and in the first game of the season than they did last year. It's an intelligent strategy since transition points are the most efficient in the game, as generally there is little or no defense to offer resistance.
As the team's best defensive perimeter player Deng will bear an important part of the onus here. He's going to be the one who most frequently gets the opportunity to push the ball up the court in transition.
In the clip below, we see Deng get the steal and look to push the ball up the court. While he doesn't get the assist or the bucket, the points are off of his aggressiveness.
Additionally, Deng is a solid rebounder who can grab long rebounds and immediately turn the ball up the court. In the clip below, we see him do just that as he wastes no time going end to end. These kinds of efficient points are easy ways that Deng can replace some of the points the Bulls will be missing without Rose.
Looking to Make the Right Passes
Often people confuse "doesn't" do something with "can't' do something. Luol Deng is not typically asked to be a facilitator in the Bulls offense, but when he has been he's a gifted passer. In particular, he can be an outstanding facilitator from the elbows.
Because at 6'9" he has a height advantage over most small forwards, he sees the court well. Because of his high basketball IQ, he makes the right decisions. He is able to find teammates get easy shots as demonstrated in the video below where he helps find Noah for the easy two.
Cutting to the Rim
In the half court offense where the Bulls can use Deng to be the most aggressive is in his cutting. According to Synergy data he averaged a reasonably stout 1.15 points per play off of cut plays, hitting on 58.9 percent of his shots.
That's because he's decisive when he cuts and with his combination of speed and strength, he is tough to stop. His ball handling skills aren't the greatest, but those don't come into play here. In the video below, you see a great demonstration of what he does when he decides to, and why the Bulls would be well-served by seeing him doing more of it.
Perhaps the most important thing Deng and all the Bulls starters need to do is remember that none of them are Derrick Rose and none are going to reproduce what he does by himself. Each can do a part and the sum of those parts together is what's going to replace Rose. Therefore, it's important no one try to do too much.
Deng is the leader of the team and if he can find the right balance of increased aggressiveness, the rest will follow. Deng needs to push the temp on the one hand, but reign it in if it gets out of hand. If the Bulls can do that, they can still be a highly competitive team until Rose returns.
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