What Luol Deng Means and Has Meant to the Chicago Bulls

Mike B.Correspondent IOctober 2, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 15: Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls attempts a free throw against the Golden State Warriors on March 15, 2013 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Luol Deng is one of the most valuable players on the Chicago Bulls' roster. And that has been the case for nearly a decade now.

The former Duke star was drafted by the Phoenix Suns back in 2004. However, he never wound up playing a single minute for the team, as he was immediately dealt to Chicago. He would help transform the Bulls from a laughingstock to a playoff ball club. Nowadays, the team is a legit title contender with Deng still manning the small forward spot.

Deng will become a free agent next summer. While he won't garner the same attention as superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony (if they opt out), many teams will attempt to acquire his services.

Chicago management needs to do whatever it takes to re-sign him. He has put together a fantastic season and means a lot to the franchise. So just what makes him so important?


Remarkable Defender

A Luol Deng article wouldn't make sense without mentioning defense. It would be like writing a Dennis Rodman story without using the word "rebounding."

Deng is easily one of the best defenders in the game today.

On a nightly basis, he guards the opposing team's top perimeter scorer. Whether it's James, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant, somebody's going to have a rough night when they face the Bulls.

It's hard to believe that Deng has only made one NBA All-Defensive team during his career (2011-12 season). You would think he would have several selections on his resume by now. Oh well, that's how things go when you're one of the league's most underrated players.

Here's Deng playing the passing lane versus the Cleveland Cavaliers last season: 

Picking up a nice steal, he leads the break and feeds Nate Robinson for the bucket. Every sports fan has heard the saying, "The best offense is a good defense." This was the perfect example. 

The Bulls have been an elite defensive squad over the past few years. While coach Tom Thibodeau and center Joakim Noah have a lot to do with that, it would be foolish to forget about Deng's impact. 


Solid Scorer

Defense is a major reason Deng was an All-Star the past two seasons. His scoring helped him as well.

When Derrick Rose tore his ACL, everyone wondered who would step up in his absence. Deng would answer the bell, leading the Bulls with 16.5 points per game, increasing his average from the previous season. He wound up reaching the 25-point mark 10 times, including a season-high 33 versus the New York Knicks.

Deng was unstoppable during this one, knocking down threes and mid-range jumpers as well as driving to the bucket with ease. He hit 13 of his 18 attempts from the field, which is impressive for a guy who isn't known for his shooting.

With Rose's return to the court, Deng will step down to be the No. 2 scorer this season. Don't be surprised, though, to see a few 30-point nights every once in a while.

Deng has been a solid scorer throughout his Chicago career. He averaged at least 15.3 points in six of his nine seasons, including a career-best 18.8 in 2006-07.

Possessing the ability to get the job done on both ends of the floor makes Deng a terrific two-way player. 


Bulls Legend

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12:  Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls brings the ball upcourt against the Boston Celtics during the game on December 12, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Celtics won 106-80.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Deng is one of the greatest players in Bulls history. No, he isn't Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen but a legend nonetheless.

He ranks high in several all-time categories. Only four players have scored more points than Deng, and just four have logged more minutes.

Speaking of minutes, "Lieutenant Deng" is the ultimate workhorse. He led the league in minutes per game in each of the past two seasons, and ranked fourth during the 2010-11 campaign. When you play nearly 40 minutes a night, you're extremely valuable, to say the least.

Ever since Deng arrived in the Windy City, he has been the type of player every team wants on their roster. He can score, provide great defense to the lineup, rebound and play through injuries. While he's not Chicago's Alpha Dog like Rose or the emotional leader like Noah, Deng is the perfect glue guy.

The Bulls are capable of winning it all this season. And if they do mange to capture title No. 7, you better believe Deng will play a major role.

Four players have their numbers retired by the Bulls: Jordan, Pippen, Jerry Sloan and Bob Love. Maybe someday, Deng's No. 9 will hang from the United Center rafters. He certainly deserves it.