Over his nine-year career, Deng has been a fan favorite as well as one of the most consistent players on the roster. His two consecutive All-Star appearances are a testament to his elevated performance and show that he is one of the league's best players.
So why is his extension still up in the air?
Deng is on a contract year, scheduled to make over $14 million. If the Bulls elect to extend his contract, he's going to command a salary around that same number. Committing that amount of money to further try out a core that has yet to win a title may not be the best route to take.
If the Bulls don't win a title this year or at least make the finals, some core players could be on their way out, including Deng.
There are obvious reasons why they should keep him: He's the perfect player for Tom Thibodeau's system and his versatility is hard to find in the league.
However, it's his offense that could determine whether he stays or not. His shooting can be off at times, and he can seldom create for himself.
So should the Bulls keep Luol Deng around for the long term or let him go?
Keeping Luol Deng
Deng has been a part of the Bulls' core for quite some time now. Over the years, he's proven that he's one of the NBA's best—if not the best—one-on-one defenders.
His defense has been one of the key components in the Bulls-Heat rivalry as well, a hurdle Chicago has yet to overcome but will be made easier if he is around.
Having a duo of Deng and Butler would give the Bulls one of the league's best perimeter defenses.
What makes Deng a great player, though, is his versatility. Aside from his elite defense and great rebounding ability, he's also a solid offensive weapon. This makes him a perfect fit for Thibodeau's system.
Offensively, Deng can be very effective when he's in rhythm. He can pull up and shoot the three, shoot off the dribble and his off-ball movement has been a key part of the Bulls' offense.
Over the last three seasons, Deng has averaged 16.4 points per game, making him the Bulls' second-highest scorer over that span.
Deng is a two-time All-Star and will be hard to replace. Chicago could offer Deng a three-year deal worth anywhere between $42-44 million. However, the Bulls have to at least make the NBA Finals in 2013-14 in order for that deal to be justified.
By the time that contract is up, Deng will be 31 and Butler will be more than capable of filling his role. It's at that point that the Bulls could either trade him or let him walk.
The biggest reason why the Bulls would let Deng test the market is to free up cap space. Along with a possible amnesty to Carlos Boozer's contract (he is scheduled to make just under $17 million), the Bulls would be able to sign an elite scorer they can put next to Derrick Rose.
Having a one-two punch is what the Bulls need, and they haven't exactly had that because Deng and Boozer can be inconsistent at times. This past year, Deng shot 42 percent from the field. The year prior to that, he shot 41 percent.
His efficiency has to improve, and if it does, it will lead to an easier decision for Bulls' management on whether they should re-sign him.
There's also the Jimmy Butler factor.
Butler is just as good as Deng defensively if not better due to his quicker lateral movement. His offense has already taken a step forward, and he's only going to get better this upcoming season.
Butler will be able to move to the 3, and either Tony Snell or a newly acquired free agent will be the 2-guard.
Deng is a great all-around player, but his offense can leave more to be desired. Chicago needs a pure scorer who can take the pressure off of Rose.
What Should the Bulls Do?
There's no denying the talent Luol Deng has. He's an elite defender and has played a big role in what the Bulls have and plan to accomplish.
What Chicago should do is wait until their season ends. If management is satisfied with Deng's performance and his role in the direction they want to take the team, then they should commit to a long-term deal.
The 2013-14 season will be the third year in which the Bulls' main core of Rose, Deng, Boozer and Joakim Noah will be intact. If the Bulls fall short of expectations again, there should be some changes made to the roster.
It will be a tough decision for Chicago. On one hand, you have a loyal, beloved player who has produced at a high level year in and year out. On the other, you have a player who—as a focal point of the team—just hasn't led to anything big.
Chicago will likely make its decision during the summer of 2014, and you can bet every Bulls fan will be waiting to see where their team is headed.
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