Ranking Luol Deng


According to Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie, Luol Deng is the eight-best small forward in the NBA, behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Gerald Wallace, Andre Iguodala, Danny Granger and Paul Pierce.

Here’s Dwyer’s commentary: “After a year or two in the wilderness, Luol finally got his wits about him in 2009-10, averaging 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds alongside his typically sound defense. Deng also chipped in about a steal and block per game, and this is important: Luol came in at under two turnovers a game for the sixth time in a six-year career. I understand that his midrange, rarely dribbling game doesn’t see him taking many chances, but to be able to field a solid-scoring forward for nearly 38 minutes a game and see him turn the ball over just 1.9 times per? Good stuff.”

That seems fair. Now let’s take a quick peek at the comparitive 2010-11 salaries of Dwyer’s top eight SFs (from ShamSports): LeBron ($14,500,000), Durant ($6,053,663 from his rookie contract but jumping to $13,603,750 in 2011-12), ‘Melo ($17,149,243), Wallace ($10,500,000), Iggy ($12,345,250), Granger ($10,973,202), Pierce ($13,876,321) and Deng ($11,345,000).

This biggest knock against Deng is his supposedly cap-killing contract. And yet based on Dwyer’s rankings, Deng’s pay is roughly commensurate with his standing among the league’s elite small forwards.

This — in addition to all the recent talk about potentially trying to flip Deng (and other assets) for ‘Melo — got me to wondering how Luol ranks statistically compared to the league’s other small forwards.

Deng versus the Average Small Forward:
According to Hoopdata, the average NBA small forward gives his team 9.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG (2.7 DR and 0.8 OR), 1.4 APG, 0.7 SPG and 0.4 BPG while shooting 44.9% from the field, 34.9% from downtown and 78.6% from the line (on 2.2 FTA).

Last season, Deng averaged 17.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG (5.4 DR and 1.9 OR), 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 and 0.9 BPG while shooting 46.6% from the field, 38.6% from beyond the arc and 76.4% from the line (on 4.7 FTA).

At a glance, it’s clear that Deng is solidly above average. But let’s delve further. The following comparitive rankings also come from Hoopdata. I have compared Deng to other “full time” small forwards — that is, SFs who played 40+ games and 30+ MPG — across several categories.

Deng ranked 4th in RPG, 4th in Offensive RPG, 4th in Defensive RPG, 4th in BPG, 8th in FTA, 8th in FG%, 9th in PPG and 10th in 3P%.

Defense / Rebounding:
Deng ranked 4th in Offensive Rebounding Rate, 5th in Total Rebounding Rate, 5th in Charges Drawn, 6th in Defensive Rebounding Rate and 7th in Defensive Plays (Steals + Blocks + Charges Drawn).

Shooting / Scoring:
Despite ranking 8th in FG% and 10th in 3P%, Deng ranked only 13th in FT%, 14th in True Shooting Percentage and 16th in Effective Field Goal Percentage. He ranked 8th in Field Goals Assisted, but that means he didn’t really create his own shots. He was also 9th in Times Blocked.

Believe it or not, Deng ranked 8th in And1s (times scoring a basket while also drawing a shooting foul) and 8th in And1% (And1s / Field Goals Attempted). He ranked 9th in Free Throw Rate.

Shot Locations:
Deng ranked 9th in FG% at the rim (61.2), 4th inside 10 feet (47.3), 9th from 10-15 feet (39.4), 6th from 16-23 feet (40.0).

He ranked 10th in attempts at the rim (4.3), 10th inside 10 feet (1.3), 10th from 10-15 feet (0.9), 3rd from 16-23 feet (6.7) and 18th from three-point range. So as we already knew, Luol “specializes” in chucking from 16-23 feet…the least efficient shot in basketball.

Deng ranked 4th in Win Shares, 6th in NBA Efficiency Rating, 7th in Adjusted Win Shares, 8th in Player Efficiency Rating and 8th in Adjusted Player Efficiency Rating.

Deng ranked 4th in Double-Doubles (13), behind only Gerald Wallace (33), LeBron James (31) and Kevin Durant (25). He had two more Double-Doubles than Carmelo Anthony.

Final thoughts:
Note all the top 10 and even top five rankings. These seem to synch up pretty well with Dwyer’s assessment. The reality — and Bulls fans would do well to realize this — is that Luol Deng is one of the best small forwards in the league. Analysis and statistics bear this out. There’s no denying it.

Are there gaps in his game? Sure. Deng takes too many long-range, contested two-pointers and doesn’t do much to create shots for his teammates. He’s also had his share of injury problems: Other than the 2006-2007 season — during which he appeared in all 82 regular season games and 10 playoff games — Deng has missed 21, 4, 19, 33 and 12 games.

But when he’s healthy, Deng provides consistent and solid (if not spectacular) production. If you parse the numbers and really examine what Luol brings to the team, it becomes strikingly obvious that he’s not the wildly overpaid bust that many people think he is. His status among the top 10 small forwards is well-deserved.

37 Responses to Ranking Luol Deng

  1. edboom24@yahoo.com'
    Ballaholic August 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Men lie, women lie… NUMBERS DON’T!!! Go Bulls!

  2. mikemayer3@hotmail.com'
    thirdsaint August 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Very much enjoyed this mainly because Deng gets a lot of undeserved hate. I think this is one of those cases where fans aren’t going to realize what they had until he’s gone. That is, of course, unless the guy that replaces him is better. Then they won’t care.

  3. madjenky man August 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Great article. Deng does receive a ton of hate from Bulls fans and other fans around the league. He has always showed great upside but needs to improve a little more. I always viewed him as a top 15 SF in the league, i didnt realize that with an even better year then last year he could threaten the top 5

  4. DipenPatel@Chicagobreakingsports.com'
    BULL4EVER August 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    MEN have always stood zero chance to women because women have always been the biggest liars,hey JESUS was a man ,JESUS was not a woman,but stats have always been truthful of course and who cares if DENG gets undeserved hate because the BULLS should be totally hated no matter what because this is a title-winning tradition,man come on now.GO BULLS!!!!!!

  5. cavendish.lamore@gmail.com'
    cavendish August 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Great numbers work – definitely puts his production into focus. I’ve always been a Deng fan and I think he can be an exceptional 3rd Banana. I also think he does a very good job defending the top SF’s like he did against LBJ in the playoffs.

    However, I hope he continues to improve his play and his numbers because his salary will also continue to increase, eventually reaching 14 mil in his last year when he turns 30.

  6. tyrehm@gmail.com'
    onestepback August 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    There’s no denying that Deng is fundamentally sound, and shows better judgement than most players in the league – when it comes to everything, but shooting. How many times have we seen him standing 1-3ft in front of the 3pt line, throwing up a shot simply because he’s open? Granted, if you’ve got the shot, take it; but if you’ve got the space anyway, take one step back and go for the extra point. He should have been working on his three point shot three years ago, as should any NBA player outside positions 4 and 5. I can live with missing threes; it’s a long shot. But I can’t stand seeing players settling for a 17.5ft wing jumper. Can’t hate, but can’t appreciate.

  7. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. August 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    Excellent overview, Matt. I agree that he is solid, and often unfairly maligned by Bulls’ fans.

  8. nussbaum.jb@gmail.com'
    Jb August 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Agree, Deng generates much hate, but usually from uniformed fans and analysts. It is easy once a player gets a label to blindly stand by it, however anyone that watches knows he’s not wildly overpaid and his talents and personality fit well on this team. My only complaint is his inability to develop a 3 pt shot, inexcusable.

  9. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale August 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    “My only complaint is his inability to develop a 3 pt shot, inexcusable.”

    The funny thing is, Luol led the Bulls in three-point percentage last season (.386) but was only 6th on the team in attempts (behind Flip Murray, who played only 29 games, and Brad Miller, who is a center). The season before that, Deng canned 40 percent of his treys.

    I believe Deng can hit threes, but he has to be wiiiiide open. Unfortunately, since the Bulls have been a team full of jump shooters the last few seasons, the spacing necessary for Deng to get threes off was not there. Maybe with Boozer in the mix, Luol will see more open treys. Guess it will depend in part on coaching.

  10. provofam@hotmail.com'
    John August 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Great article, I’ve been hoping someone would publish an article like this. Too many Bulls fans want Deng gone but it would be hard to replace his contributions. The biggest gripe that I usually hear is that he get’s injured too frequently. I hope that he uses the negativity like he did this year to prove others wrong. I especially like his defense, he is often asked to guard the other teams best player. He is a good spot up shooter but IMO he can sometimes be out of control trying to get to the rim. With the additions to the Bulls this summer and Rose’s growth it should help to get Deng even more wide open looks! Go Bulls!

  11. Sam August 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    I love Luol, definitely one of the best role players in the league. But the problem with Luol is that he is a role player getting paid 11 mil a year. It’s not that he’s not one of the best small forwards in the game. It’s that he’s getting paid close to a franchise player, when he’s probably worth closer to 7-9 mil/year. When the Bulls signed him to the big contract, it was with the expectation that he was going to improve to a star. Since then, he has been down and up. If he improves on last season and stays healthy, sure, he will be worth his contract. But if he continues to miss 15-20 games a year and impacts the game as a spot up mid range shooter and solid rebounder, his reputation of being a “salary killer” is not undeserved.

  12. Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Numbers don’t lie, but they can be manipulated. Using numbers, one can probably prove Ramon Sessions to be one of the top guards in the league. Or Louis Amundson and Chris Anderson to be star big men. I’m not saying these examples have the greatest numbers, but if we spread that same judgment using numbers, there will probably be some scrub ranking real high. Nevertheless, I think it can be agreed on that Luol keeps it simple and effective. And needs to shoot the 3 more.

  13. Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    deng is weak is hell

  14. Bill Z August 24, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    The problem with Deng the past several years is not his stats, those are fine – even based on his salary. It just that he has had so many games where he scores 10+ points in the first quarter and then disappears at crunch time (mainly due to his aptitude to shoot jump shots and not create for himself or teammates).

    The good news is that this year he will essentially be our 3rd scoring option. We will not need him to be the focus in the 4th quarter. He can quietly sink into the background and put up his typical 15pts & 7reb. He will also be more open for the corner 3’s due to the attention Rose and Boozer will get.

    Deng is a solid role player and this year that is what he will finally be, a role player.

  15. lil_crook16@yahoo.com'
    1st man August 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    you a fool fa sayin deng weak… he better than yo weak ass um better than yo weak ass too… he should be higher andre cant shoot wallace cant shoot and peirce too old now but he will compete against lou in the confrence championship… d rose all day…

  16. leescr@msn.com'
    Lee Scruggs August 24, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I have actually looked at these numbers along with the fact that Luol is now the third best 3-Pt shooting small forward in the league–that’s better than LeBron, much better than Melo (while we looking for a 3-pt shooters!). A lot of this has to do with local sports-talk radio hosts that are not aware of these numbers or see them and don’t know how to apply and compare them to other 3’s playing in different systems. The knock that is true about Luol is that he has not developed the ability to close a game. He increased his 3-pt average but isn’t likely to take the final shot. To this point, I would remind everyone that he’s played organized ball for less than 10 years and is still learning. Leading the British team in the Wold tournament will help his development in that area. Chicago fans and in particular media just don’t realize what it has in Deng and moreover what he will become. He’s only 25.

  17. felipeagarcia87@hotmail.com'
    Dj August 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    I agree with Sam,

    The numbers don’t lie but, he is still getting paid way to much money as a role player. When he should be making around 7-9 million per year.

    What bother me the most is his health! every season he will miss 1-2 month games which is not a good sign.

    Other then that if he can stay health, he is a solid average player making 16-18 ppg, 5-7 rpg, 1 spg, 1 blk and 2-3 ast per game.

    This season Deng needs to take more 3 point shots to extent his game, so his value can go up. lol

  18. hardy33@yahoo.com'
    hardtimes August 24, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    Kudos to Matt for writing this article. I was just on this site the other day commenting on the “forget Carmelo” article and people were posting about how they would take Carmelo over Deng any day. Well I admit that Carmelo is a better talent but Deng fits better with what the Bulls are trying to do which is a defensive minded team.
    Not only that but Carmelo can play off the ball but plays better when the ball is in his hands. Deng is going to be perfect for Boozer and Rose pick and roll play. You need slashers to go with the type of offense the Bulls will be running and everyone knows Deng is one of the best slashing players in the league. In my opinion, he definitely fits better than Melo.
    I also stated that Deng definitely was a top 10 SF with the numbers he put up last year. Deng always holds his own against the top SF in the league and never gets respect. I am so glad you wrote this article so maybe some of the Deng bashers will leave him alone. He is humble and never causes problems for the franchise like some of these other so called stars.
    Great article.

  19. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    BoppinBob August 25, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    Deng has not taken a lot of 3pters in the past, but since Rose got here he has had the opportunity to get some spot-up shots and hit them at a very good percentage (40% in 08/09, 38.6% in 09/10). I am sure that he will become the starting lineups designated spot-up shooter, I believe that he will take more 3’s and continue to hit them at a solid percentage. I also see Noah being more of an offensive threat with Boozer having to be defended Noah will be left with some bunnies. I am psyched for this coming season, I can’t wait to see the defense that Thibs installs and the potential for the offense is scary.

    I also want to say shame on everyone who says that Gibson has hit his potential already, we can’t possibly know that until he gets a chance to play this coming season. I saw improvement all season long last year and anticipate continued improvement and a potential step up in leadership on the second team. It would be a natural, a marginal starter stepping up to be a leader/sixth man of the second unit. It not only could happen but I predict that it will happen. I believe that his potential has not been tapped as of yet. I see Taj becoming a defensive stopper and offensive force on the second unit.

  20. hardy33@yahoo.com'
    hardtimes August 25, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Very good points BoppinBob. Deng will score more and be vital to the bulls success this year. He will get a lot of open shots this year because of Rose and Boozer and a lot of those will be 3s. I look forward to Deng having a big year.
    And you are so right about Gibson. He is only 24 or 25. He isnt even in his prime yet. He will get even better with Boozer there to mentor him. Look what Booz did for Milsap. Gibson is only gonna get better and be one of the best bench players in the nba. If Boozer does have to miss time, Gibson is a very solid and capable fill in. Matter of fact the talent does not fall off that much. My worry is that Gibson is going to blossom so much that we will lose him and to free agency in 2 years because we wont be able to pay him and Boozer. And he is 3 years younger than Boozer.
    But we are going to be deep at the 4 position for a couple years. I love it.

  21. tiffac8@gmail.com'
    tiffac August 25, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    If Deng can become a 3pt point threat then all will be well. I mean his shots are just one step back from the 3pt line anyway. Deng has the stroke, he seems confident with his range. So why not take it even further and help the slashers out? Its time to evolve your game Deng.

  22. Matt Steigenga August 25, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    I hear Deng is playing like a SUperstars overseas this summer. I hope he keeps that up into the Bulls season.

  23. felipeagarcia87@hotmail.com'
    Dj August 25, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    Other then that I rather keep Deng then to trade him for Melo.

    Like most of us Bulls fans that knows our team chemistry, Deng fits better right now with the Bulls new defensive system then Melo.

    Deng plays better pressure defense, he is a solid scorer, he is 1 year younger, taller and he has the right attitude to win games.

    The only problem that I don’t like about Deng is his health issues that he has every season. Other than that when he is healthy he is one of the top 10 best SF in the NBA league.


  24. powers88@vt.edu'
    Bobby August 25, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    I don’t hate Deng unless I just finished watching a close game with the Bulls. Of course when you step back and look at the numbers he really seems like a great small forward but those numbers aren’t what make great players. He disappears in big games in the fourth quarter and his injuries have slowed him down as a defender. I still say he is overpaid but I would agree that isn’t as drastically as people say.

    And I completely disagree with the idea that Deng fits the Bulls system better than Carmelo. Deng isn’t the good to great defender that he used to be so that leaves the offense. If Derrick Rose had Carmelo at the wing with Boozer down low that COULD be the scariest offense in the league. Don’t get me wrong if any guy is wearing a Bulls jersey than I’m rootin for him but to say that Carmelo wouldn’t be better for the team to me just sounds ludicrous.

  25. bscholtens@hotmail.com'
    Brad S. August 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    There is one quality about Luol (and this goes for Taj Gibson, as well) that seems to be lost in the clutter: He is perfect for this team because his professionalism and his personality allow him to NOT be the first option.

    Teams like to talk about how important “glue” guys are to winning. A guy like Derek Fisher or John Paxson come to mind with their respective teams. Both men made their marks by working hard, never developing an attitude, and being a reliable player who can effectively run the offense with minimal turnovers. But at no time was either ever considered a top 6 player at his position. If a fantasy draft were held with those three guys, who do you take first?

    Luol brings everything that those examples do, while playing at a much higher level, …consistantly. He has never embarassed the team or the organization. He works hard. He seems to get along well with whomever they pair him with and I would be willing to bet that the same will be true this year.

    As far as his salary is concerned, I guess this whole thread is just a long-winded way of saying that both Paxson and Luol’s agent got it right. Now if we can just keep him healthy…

  26. Bark August 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    @1st man

    speak English please.

  27. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    reggie August 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    wow I am sure some if not most would take almost any of the above mentioned names to deng I for one think Deng gets thrown under the bus way too much he has had injuries yet he has also played through them for the most part not many top payed players do that also he does not complain and make excuses when they lose he is humble also when legs healthy he can be a tough defender as well as offensive player in the Nba also his pay or contract is right where it should be great Job to lock him down with all that went on this past summer if he was not signed long term he may have been gone and not a bull last but not least to all the haters that say He is not worth the money or weak the numbers do not lie nor does his game nor will it I am gonna stand behind Deng as to the rest of our bulls I have said it b4 I am gonna say it again just winning our Division is not enough first round victory is not enough I think this is the year we at the very least go to the confrence finals maybe even win it , we got alot of new players to help rose true superstar and boozer and noah and yes Debg its on this year Chi town get ready this could be the first of many Great B ball yrs here IN CHI town GO BULLS. Peace

  28. jake_vick@hotmail.com'
    Jake in Minnie August 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I just like when ever he scores it gives me the opportunity to go:

    Deeeeeeeeeeeehng, (you got knocked the Fuck OUT!, Man)

    Oh, and he can play.

    My in depth 2 cents.

  29. jlivarch@gmail.com'
    ToroToroToro August 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Great write-up… sometimes we forget to appreciate what we already have.

  30. dan August 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    I have been a critic of Deng for some time…Numbers tell only part of the tale and quite frankly, I still dont think he’s all that aggressive. Or atleast he doesnt maintain a high level of intensity throught a single game. If he improved on making his prescence known throughout a game, he would then gain a ton of respect

  31. coolchicagobrotha79@yahoo.com'
    Mario August 26, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    Luol Deng is a good player, not a great player, but very solid. He, Derrick and Joakim carried the Bulls to the playoff’s this year and he also deserves credit. Deng will be improved this season, because he will finally be surrounded with all star caliber players. Because Deng was the highest paid player on the team he was expected to do more of the heavy lifting, but he’s better suited to be a third option. Hinrich, Gordon and Ben Wallace werent the caliber of players that Deng needed to be surrounded with to be productive. Alot of the pressure will be off of Deng and he will produce more, because of it.

  32. anurag.kabra@rediffmail.com'
    Anurag August 27, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Liked the article. Deng does not contribute much in the 2nd half. I would like to see his numbers compared in both the halves.
    He plays well when he’s fresh and gets tired very fast.

  33. Brendan August 27, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    nice article. it’s about time Deng gets his due. Fans get way too caught up in his contract but the simple fact is – the guy brings 17 and 7 from the small forward position. He may not be lebron, but he’s not being asked to be the star of this team so lets accept what he brings and realize that he is a good player and an important piece of this team.

  34. hardy33@yahoo.com'
    hardtimes August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    Very well said Brendan. I totally agree.

  35. OnSomeBull September 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Deng is overpaid. All of you who rather keep him then Melo…beat feet. He was supposedly going to be an all-star after 07. This is all I’ve heard for yrs; during Gordon negotiations (when BG was the leader and closer of the team) and trading blocks. I mean, he’s definitely a good player but he’s not worth 13 million. He’s a third option…he’s always been that type of player and it was unfair to think he could lead a team. Since he’s been a bull, he’s never carried the teams. Hinirich and then Gordon and now Rose. I just don’t think he’s anything that special. Basically for 13 mill you should get either a 1st or 2nd option who can close the game for you and he’s not that. He’s whack and all you who think he’s anything more are just as whack.


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