I’ve always been a proponent for letting Luol Deng walk after this season or trading him for the right deal, but I admit, I’m having second thoughts. Luol has been fantastic this season and the Derrick Rose injury, he’s amped up his game. He’s averaging 27 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and shooting 54.8 from the field. This is fantastic production. This is legitimate second option production. It also looks like Luol has changed his game a little bit and is more of a post-up player. It’s made him slightly more efficient as a result and shooting 46%, which is much more appealing than the 41% or 42% he’s been shooting the past few seasons. Per NBA.com/stats, Luol Deng should not shoot outside of 14 feet. He’s the most efficient there. His field goal percentage dips to 42% from 15-19 feet and then falls off a cliff outside of that. Maybe it’s his wrist finally healing or maybe it’s Luol Deng being aggressive, but whatever it is, I like it.
Could the Bulls realistically keep Luol Deng? What about all the mythical 2014 cap space? I think I’ve come up with a solution to keep Luol Deng and benefit the Bulls going forward.
In today’s NBA, traditional power forwards like Carlos Boozer are becoming relics. The era of the stretch four and spacing the floor has been in effect for a while. Guys like Ryan Anderson, Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, and even Chandler Parsons could be considered power forwards in some lineups. As much as I love Carlos Boozer’s game, I think he could become the fall guy. We all know about his contract situation and the potential for amnesty this summer. I really think this should happen. He will make $16.8 million dollars next season and that’s just unacceptable. The Bulls have also been long rumored to finally bring Nikola Mirotic over from Spain. If you’ve never watched Mirotic, think young Dirk Nowitzki with a little more athleticism with a jumpshot that uses a mix of Ray Allen’s release with Reggie Miller’s release and Dirk’s shooting stance. By all accounts, he’s going to be awesome. At the very least, he is an excellent shooter – a 6’10” stretch four! You probably couldn’t play Boozer and Mirotic together with Noah, but you could play Mirotic and Deng together. Deng could defend small forwards and work the post while Mirotic rains in from the perimeter. You could potentially have a lineup with Rose, Butler, Deng, Mirotic, and Noah that actually makes sense.
Also, providing the case against Carlos Boozer: Taj Gibson has been stellar lately. I’ve been trying to trade Taj Gibson for two years and complained about how he was driving me crazy to the point that he blocked me on Twitter, but he has been awesome. The last 3 games he’s averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds, and shooting 66% from the field. I’m not sure he’s had a stretch like this in his career and currently he’s averaging a career-high 11.5 points per game for the season. Taj was rumored to put in a lot of work on his offense in the offseason and we’re definitely seeing it. He’s been awesome as of late. His low post ability combined with a solid baseline jumper and a decent mid-range jumper. Taj Gibson’s two-way play makes him a valuable player for the Bulls going forward and if he keeps playing like this, he will join Stephen Curry as one of the most valuable players on a reasonable contract. You couldn’t say that about Taj Gibson last year. Hopefully this 3 game stretch isn’t a fluke.
If the Bulls keep Luol Deng, bring Mirotic over, and amnesty Carlos Boozer, they could be sitting in better shape than we believed them to be this season. Assuming Rose’s meniscus tear was a fluke and he remains healthy for 70 games next season, the Bulls would have a well-rounded lineup which is something we haven’t seen from the defense heavy teams of the Tom Thibodeau era. You would have defense with Butler, Deng, Gibson, and Noah. You would have good to excellent three-point shooting with Butler, Snell, Dunleavy (if he’s not traded), Mirotic, and Derrick Rose’s further improved jumpshot. You would have athleticism with Rose, Butler, Gibson, Snell, Noah and Mirotic to some extent. If Luol Deng continues to play well in the post and Taj’s emergence isn’t a fluke, that eases the burden for Derrick Rose, who might not be able to carry it anymore.
And after all that, the Bulls will still probably have a draft pick around the 18-20 range in a loaded draft and possibly Charlotte’s pick in the 13-20 range depending on how “real” they are and maybe the mid-level exception to use to fill out the roster. The future looks bright for the Chicago Bulls, even if they do bring back Luol Deng.