Chicago Bulls: 5 Things Luol Deng Can Learn from Scottie Pippen
There's little question who the best small forward in Chicago Bulls history is.
Scottie Pippen is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile players to ever play the position in the NBA, not just for the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls current small forward, Luol Deng, could learn from his predecessor. Deng is a talent and is coming off the best year of his career, but the there are still several ways he could elevate his game, and Scottie Pippen's game would be a good place to start to study.
In fact, if he were to improve these five aspects of his game by looking at Pippen's, Deng could help lift the Bulls over the hump to get the NBA title.
It's not that Luol Deng isn't already an outstanding defensive player—he really is.
It's that he needs to get to that next level of defensive play.
Scottie Pippen helped the Bulls win their first NBA championship when he shut down Magic Johnson on defense.
Deng could be well served to watch how Pippen defended Johnson in that '91 series and then use the same method to stop James the next time they play.
Sorry the video isn't entirely in English, but you don't need to understand it all to understand one thing—Scottie Pippen was outstanding in transition.
His athleticism—combined with Michael Jordan's—could take the Bulls from one end of the court to the other in the blink of an eye.
Luol Deng is actually better in transition than some people might realize.
His 1.32 points per play in transition is better than LeBron James' 1.26. The difference is that James is more aggressive, making 195 transition field goals to Deng's 118.
Deng needs to learn from Pippen to be looking to break out and get the easy two points on every play.
That kind of aggressiveness can be the difference between one or two field goals in a game, and that can be the difference in the game.
Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest passers in the history of the league.
In fact, he has more career assists than any player who was not a point guard.
Part of the reason for that was that he had such amazing court vision and awareness. Note the play in the video if you need to see what I mean.
Of course, the other part of the reason is he passed to Michael Jordan. Passing to Michael Jordan is going to help anyone's assist totals.
Deng is never going to be the passer that Pippen was, but by watching some of Pippen's film he could see how Pippen's awareness helped create shots for the Bulls.
Deng's career average is only 2.3 assists per game, which could be a lot better.
If he can increase his court awareness and raise that average to around 4.0, then the Bulls would have a more versatile offense and a little less reliance on Derrick Rose's playmaking ability.
Scottie Pippen also had a tremendous ability to create shots for himself.
If you watch the video, look how he never takes his eye off the rim when he's going for a score. His ball-handling is natural and fluid, and he never has to look at the ball.
It's in a stark contrast to Deng, who almost always seems to need to check to make sure the ball is still there when he dribbles.
It is, without a doubt, the most infuriating thing about Deng's game.
You're an NBA player, Luol! You should be able to dribble without looking at the ball!
Deng should watch some film to see how smooth Pippen is with the ball and try to incorporate that into his game.
If he could create even one or two more buckets a game for himself, the Bulls would be a real threat to win it all.
In one of the most idiotic chants in the history of the NBA, Cleveland fans "insulted" LeBron James by calling him "Scottie Pippen" this last season. It was a clear shot at James deferring to teammate Dwyane Wade and becoming a number two option.
The truth is that being a "Robin" is hardly that simple a task, and has become an increasingly derogatory term that shouldn't be. It's much harder to be a Robin than a Batman.To be a Robin it takes a certain kind of mentality.
On the one hand you still need that killer instinct, but on the other you need to be able to subjugate that instinct and defer to "Batman" when necessary. It requires the perfect balance between pride and humility. Pippen had it for most of his career, though some would point to "final shot" argument as evidence to the contrary.
In the video above you see that Pippen wasn't gong to back down from any opponent. He had a cockiness to him. It's almost as though he thought the only player in the world that was better than him was Jordan, so that was the only player he would defer to.
When Jordan was off the court, Pippen took over. He often led the bench to huge scoring sprees while Jordan sat on the bench. It was as if Pippen knew as soon as Jordan sat down he was the best player on the court.
Deng has humility but he needs to develop a little more of a "Pippenesque" ego. He needs to be more aggressive when Rose is on the bench and take command of the team. If he believes in himself the team will believe in him too.
There were moments last year, such as the game winning shot against Miami, where he stepped up, but there were too many where he stepped away.
If I had a chance to give Deng one word of advice, it would be go have lunch with Scottie Pippen and just have Pippen give him some advice on how to be the perfect number two, because Pippen may have filled that role better than anyone in history.
Sure there were better tandems than Michael Jordan and Pippen, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, but in terms of the mentality of a number two, I don't know who filled the role better. Deng could learn a lot from Pippen in that regard, and it might be the most important thing he could learn from him.