Luol Deng: All-Star

Celebrate good times, people.

After years of hard work and dedication to his craft — during which his contributions have been largely unappreciated outside of (and sometimes inside of) Chicago — Luol Deng has been selected as a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

A few days ago, I said there wasn’t a solid statistical argument for Lu to make the team, even though I really wanted him to make it because he’s such a valuable player to the Bulls. In that argument, I listed raw numbers and several advanced metrics. However, I missed something that may have been pretty important. Something that was pointed out to me via e-mail by TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott.

Henry wrote:

A case for Deng would be built largely on defense, which nobody charts individually. Those defensive metrics you cite try to extrapolate from opponents’ performance, but you and I both know in a Thibodeau system there’s so much switching and helping that that is imperfect.

Also, you say no stat can capture every little thing. But I disagree. The score does. If you’re helping the team, you’re helping the team, you know?

All of that is in plus/minus. The problem is not that it misses stuff. It’s that it captures other stuff too, and is noisy, especially early in the season.

But if you’re saying somebody is not such a great defender for this team, I don’t know if the defensive metrics you cite matter or not. They might. But I’d sure double-check them against the plus/minus. … which suggests Deng is indeed elite.

Among Bulls who have played at least 500 minutes, nobody has been on the floor when the team got better results. (Taj is up there, but the shorter the minutes, the wackier the plus/minus.)

But look at Luol! You can go back in time. They have been very very good with him on the floor, and not nearly as good with him off.

Compare those numbers to a lot of other players, or other SFs, and I think it’s easy to say that Deng is likely an elite player. Maybe an All-Star.

Henry wanted me to make it clear that he hadn’t gotten a chance to research this topic in detail. He was only suggesting that there were additional factors — an plus/minus in particular — to consider when trying to decide whether Deng was statistically worthy of an All-Star berth. And in terms of plus-minus…Luol definitely deserves to make the team.

Of course, that’s all moot, because Lu is an All-Star now. The coaches have made sure of that.

And it’s a well-deserved honor no matter how you look at it.

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