Is Luol Deng the Rodney Dangerfield of the NBA? The Chicago Bulls' forward and two-time All-Star has a solid overall game. He does not overwhelm you with a host of highlight reel slam-dunks. Nor does he wow fans with superior athleticism. Deng is your typical basketball star who doesn’t get any respect.
For those who are too young to remember Rodney Dangerfield, take some time for a brief history lesson in entertainment. You will understand why Luol Deng’s career is similar to that of the famed comedian.
Think of the top 20-25 players in the league. How many players do you think of before you mention Deng’s name? Deng is an NBA player that relies more on substance than on style points. He is much like Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. The former Duke standout is a guy who makes a shot, puts his head down and sprints back on defense.
Is there anything about his game that stands out to you?
Three-point shooting is not Deng’s specialty, neither is his post-up game. He does possess the unimpressive mid-range jumper.
Nobody is in awe of the mid-range shot! The shot is a thing of beauty when it goes in, but it adds very little to the entertainment value of a basketball game.
Several stars in the NBA still make a living shooting the 16-23 foot shot, but the only time “ESPN Sportscenter” will highlight it is when the basket is a buzzer-beater. It is also showcased when a superstar has a big scoring night from that area on the court.
Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are two the best shooters from within 16-23 feet, but they are also adept at taking their defenders off the dribble for easier shots. According to Hoopsdata.com, they shoot 43 and 42 percent between 16-23 feet. Deng is shooting a modest 34 percent.
Despite playing several close games, the Bulls are seldom in the position where they need a last minute shot. Deng, their go-to scorer, is usually effective with his shooting when the Bulls need scoring. He has to be. On a team that struggles to put up points, he leads the team, averaging 17 PPG.
Scoring isn’t the only thing Deng does; he is a terrific rebounder.
The league rebounding average for small forwards is 3.5; Deng hauls down 6.8 RPG, ninth among his position. Sadly, there is nothing flashy about rebounding.
Defense is another calling card of Deng’s. He was always regarded as a great individual defender. Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau assigns him the opposing team’s best perimeter player. It is always a tough draw when you have to guard Anthony one night, Durant another night and LeBron James two days after, followed up by chasing Paul George after that.
While most players may cringe at the murderers' row of opponents, Deng relishes this. He makes it tough for them to get their shots off. Players that he guards earn their points the hard way.
Great defense equals style-points on the condition that they are tide-turning blocked shots or stolen passes that lead to fast breaks. Deng is not a good shot-blocker (0.4 BLK), and though he does average 1.1 SPG, he does not play the passing lanes. He is more of a one-on-one defender.
Without a bevy of flash, Deng flies under the radar. This is ok for him, as he is the glue to the team and has been throughout his Bulls’ career.
Deng deserves our recognition. Not for what he brings to the box score or the highlight reels. When you think of Luol Deng, you have to keep in mind the fact that he is a constant on the team. Whatever he is asked to do, he does it. Scoring, rebounding or defending, Deng brings a little bit of everything to the table with very little fanfare.
Being a star does not always include being a high-volume scorer, or an in your face personality. Consistency is important.
Like Rodney Dangerfield in his comedic prime, Luol Deng is constructing a solid professional career. When will he earn the respect?