With the news of Carmelo Anthony wanting out of Denver, many Chicago Bulls fans have willingly offered up Luol Deng and an assortment of players and picks for the Nuggets' superstar.
Not so fast. As a member of Great Britain's national team, Deng has quietly produced fantastic numbers as arguably the best player on his squad.
Deng has put up games of 32 points and nine rebounds, followed by 23 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Then against Ukraine he posted 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Sure, these stats are inflated by a lower level of competition. But what would it say about Deng if he put up worse numbers against the same opposition? At least he is dominating when he should be.
More importantly, his time with Great Britain could provide a boost to his confidence and leadership, particularly after his name was thrown around in all sorts of speculative moves. Remember how poorly the Bulls performed after trade talks for Kobe Bryant?
His performance also serves as a reminder to fans that he is still young (25 years old) and is just nearing the time when most players enter their prime. People act as if he's washed up, when really he has just had bad luck with injuries.
I want to believe Deng is going to be a great player on the revamped Bulls. I want to believe his injuries are behind him. I want to believe he has the drive to prove all the doubters wrong who call him "soft."
But I just can't right now. Not even after his strong showing on the international stage.
I've floated the notion of trading Deng on more than one occasion. He has the nagging perception of not being worth his contract. While he was still on his rookie deal, Chicago loved him, even called him a potential All-Star.
Well, the Bulls now have three players who are more likely to be All-Stars than Deng. Derrick Rose and new acquisition Carlos Boozer have already made the team, and Joakim Noah could appear for the first time if he keeps up his gaudy rebounding numbers.
For Deng, that's perfect.
Deng is no first banana. He's not even a second banana, particularly in crunch time.
Remember back to the days of Ben Gordon. Gordon would jack up wild shots at the end of games simply because the Bulls had no one else willing and able to step up. Fans thought that should have been Deng.
Now, Rose will take shots at the end of the game. Or perhaps a post move by Boozer. Or even an outside shot by Kyle Korver.
Deng will be free to do what he does best: play within a structured offense. Vinny Del Negro's offense could be called a lot of things, but structured is not one of them.
His international performance shows what many Bulls fans needed to be reminded of: Deng still has game.
But unlike Great Britain, the Bulls have several options ahead of Deng, which should allow him to improve his efficiency.
With Rose and Boozer as the two main scoring threats, Chicago does not need to trade away Deng and Noah to get Anthony, who will detract from Rose and Boozer doing what they do best.
Against teams like Hungary and Ukraine, Deng has shown he can dominate. Against the Miami Heat, that will likely prove more difficult.
That's all right though. The Bulls have built a team, with a clear hierarchy of talent.
And no matter how great Deng performs this summer, he'll definitely have no qualms with being Chicago's third option.
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