Scouting Report: Luol Deng

Luol Deng

Name: Luol Deng (pronounced Lu-owl Dang)
Position: SF
Height: 6’9″
Weight: 220 pounds
Birth Date: April 16, 1985 (24 years old)
Birth Place: Wau
Number: 9
Nicknames: Deng-Dong, Luol, Sweet Lu, The Man from Sudan
College: Duke
Drafted: 2004, 1st Round, 7th overall by Phoenix
Experience: 5 seasons (unless you don’t count last season…)
Previous teams: None
Contract: $10.3 million in 2009-10
Expect: A little bit of everything
Don’t expect: Three-pointers

On offense:
Deng is one of those classic “does many things well but nothing great” guys on the offensive end. His go-to move is the mid-range pull-up jumper (either off the dribble or in transition), but he can also put the ball on the floor, get to the rim, spot up, shoot off screens, crash the offensive glass (he’s averaged almost two o-boards per game for his career) and even post up on occasion. Furthermore, Deng is an above-average finisher on the break, can move very well without the ball and has solid ball-handling skills. He’s also a reasonably good passer. This versatility provides Deng — and, by extension, the Bulls — a lot of ways to score the basketball.

The one glaring deficiency in Deng’s game — other than that whole “does nothing great” thing — is his poor long-range shooting. Technically, Deng hit 40 percent of his threes last season…but he attempted only 20 in the 49 games he played (an average of 0.4 attempts per game). On his career, Deng is shooting 28.3 percent from downtown and has attempted only 244 three-balls in five seasons (and 117 of those came during his rookie campaign). Improving his accuracy from beyond the arc could really help Deng take his game to the next level.

Beyond that, he could also stand to improve his free throw shooting. Deng is a career 76.8 shooter from the charity stripe and has never hit above 80 percent for a season.

On defense:
Deng’s defensive game is similar to his offensive game in that he’s solid in most areas but isn’t outstanding in any one in particular. His long arms and quick hands allow him to challenge shots and deflect passes, although he doesn’t average many blocked shots or steals (0.5 and 1.0 for his career, respectively). Deng’s defensive fundamentals — stance, footwork, rotations — are all above average and he does a solid job of staying in front of his man. Between that and his combination of length and lateral quickness, Deng has the skill set necessary to be one of the league’s premier defenders at his position.

Deng has the ability, both offensively and defensively, to be an All-Star-caliber player. This was never more apparent than during the 2006-07 season when he set career-highs in most statistical categories, including scoring (18.8), rebounding (7.1), True Shooting Percentage (56.0) and Player Efficiency Rating (18.7). However, Deng regressed in 2007-08 (despite the fact that it was a contract year) due to back and Achilles injuries. He failed to make a strong comeback in 2008-09 (despite signing a $71 million contract during the offseason), mostly because of a right tibial stress fracture that sidelined him during the second half of the season.

So what we’re left with is the cold, hard fact that Deng has had one very good season out of five. Was that a sign of what he could become…or a one-year abberation? John Hollinger made the point that Deng’s 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons were almost identical, even down to the number of shots he attempted from each distance. And obviously things didn’t improve last season.

Is Deng a one-season wonder, or will he get healthy this season and transform into the All-Star everybody thought he would become two seasons ago? I guess we’re going to find out. I know Bulls fans have grown a bit weary of waiting for him to justify all the hopes, expectations and money that have been invested in him.

Deng has good size at his position, a strong frame, a long wingspan, decent athleticism, fantastic versatility and (by all accounts) and outstanding work ethic. In other words, he has the tools and talent necessary to approach greatness. About the only thing he can’t do is stick the three. If Deng comes anywhere close to reaching his potential this season — or even if he reverts to the Luol of 2006-07 — the Bulls could be much better than most people suspect.

More Luol: profile profile

Basketball-Reference profile Player Stats
Wikipedia entry

Bonus video:


19 Responses to Scouting Report: Luol Deng

    EAM August 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Deng is yet to earn his money. Honestly I wanted Deng to get traded; maybe in a package for Bosh. Deng had one really good season and fell off the face of the earth. Yeah, he got hurt last season but he did play for a better part of the year and did nothing. He has to step it up and become everything everybody thinks/hopes he is or else the bulls will be nothing this year. I have always thought Deng was overated and I stick to that. Hopefully he can prove me wrong.

    blake August 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm #

    he’s kind of weak for his size, so he does need to improve his outside shot.

    Mike killer August 18, 2009 at 2:27 am #

    I just hope that Deng can step up his game this season and average about 18-20 pts per game, along with some assist, steals and sum block shots. If not, the bulls should trade him during the deadline for: Rudy Gay, Gerald Wallace or Jeff Green to replace the SF spot for Deng not the PF spot ‘EAM’ lol. Like you mention: trade Deng for Chris Bosh are you crazy? The Bulls will have to many PF players like: Ty Thomas, Taj Gibson & James Johnson along with Bosh, they also need sum playing time for improvements. In order to get Chris Bosh the Bulls have to give up their PF player: Ty Thomas, along with sum other good players which won’t happen. Right now, the Bulls best chances for pickup a good PF player to replace Ty Thomas if he does not play so good are: David Lee or Carlos Boozer in a trade without losing any big key players to a 1 year deal.

    andres Lopez August 18, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    I Think Deng will improve his game this season and become a Star player if he is health of course. If not, the Bulls should trade him during the deadline and replace him with a GOOD SF player like: Rudy Gay, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, Anthony Randolph or Travis Outlaw. and replace the PF shot if Ty Thomas is not playing well in a trade for David Lee, Carlos Boozer or Luis Scola.

    EAM August 18, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    Killer Mike, I feel you the trade scenario for Gay cause he’s a beast. The Blazers have always had interest in Deng too. Just saying if he doesn’t meet our expectations…something’s gotta change. If Dengs not performing then his value will go down and we will probably have to add some other talent(s) in a Deng deal. Hopefully Deng does reach all star caliber. This is definitely the year that Deng needs performs or he needs to go.

    Czernobog August 18, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Wow, those are some realistic, well thought out trade ideas.

    rocky August 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

    just to let all you guys know that deng is going to be a beast next year at the small forward position. He has already bulked up to 238 pounds and has been a machine in the gym doing two a days. Don’t underestimate this kid. You guys are already giving up on a 24yr thats crazy.

    Boppinbob August 18, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Over the last 2 seasons Deng has played 112 games of 162. 63 games in 2007/08 and 49 games in 2008/09. I do not remember wether the injuries are related but have a feeling they might be. If he truly has fully recovered from his injuries and he has been working as hard as reported in the off-season then we fans might be able to enjoy a season with solid SF play. He has to prove that he can stay healthy enough to play a full season. I do appreciate his decision to not play for GB national team. He has the tools, he needs to improve his FTs and his outside shooting. He has the potential to be a double/double machine, now he needs to deliver.

    Boppinbob August 18, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    I was just noticed that the Bulls websit lists Brad Miller as the starting center with Jerome James as his back-up. Joakim Noah is listed as the starting PF with Tyrus Thomas as the back-up. Noah is more of a PF but does anyone believe that Miller can consistently give starters minutes or that James and Gray can provide the back-up minutes? It would be nice if we could go a season with Miller/James/Gray as the center rotation but I do not see it. Noah will have to play center and will probably be the starter. I would have liked to see Augustine added to the roster.

    felipe garcia August 19, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    I sure hope not Boppinbob, I think that Brad Miller was more effective as a backup bench player to J. Noah, at the Center position. I think the Bulls will stick to this lineup in 2009-2010 season:
    PG: D. Rose
    SG: J. Salmon
    SF: L. Deng
    PF: Ty Thomas
    C: J Noah
    Backup Bench players
    PG: K. Hinrich or J. Pargo
    SG: J. Pargo or K. Hinrich
    SF: James Johnson
    PF: Taj Gibson
    C: Brad Miller
    Backup players if someone get hurt:
    G: L. Hunter
    PF-C: A. Gray or J. James

    felipe garcia August 19, 2009 at 2:10 am #

    And I doubt that the Bulls will give big minutes to J. James, along with A. Gray and L. Hunter Boppinbob, unless Noah or Miller goes down with a huge injury at the Center position. Plus I agree with you that Noah plays more as a Big PF player, but I still think he is even more effective at the Center position, just like how he played in the playoffs against Boston.

    Dan August 19, 2009 at 5:48 am #

    Felipe, Taj Gibson probably wont even play this year.

    Detroit Murder Dog August 19, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    By any objective measure, Deng is an average player. What I mean is that he is in the middle of the pack in terms of the league’s starting SF’s. He has done nothing in his career to distinguish himself apart from one good playoff series. He is probably more known for injuries at this point than any on-court success. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that he’s working hard in the offseason and trying to add new elements to his game, so I will remain skeptical until I see his performance in games. I just do not see how he is going to magically bust out in his 6th season. After 5 years, I think you know what you have and what we have is undeserving of his giant contract. Deng gets a pass because of his “nice guy” image. Unfortunately for Deng, basketball is an athletic competition and not a citizenship contest. My dream is that the Bulls trade him.

    Brad S. August 19, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    Who??? …oh yeah, THAT guy! I forgot he was still here…

    felipe garcia August 20, 2009 at 5:29 am #

    We don’t know that yet Dan, remember Taj Gibson is a 1 round draft pick. It would be stupid if they do not give him sum minutes like: L. Hunter, J. James and A. Gray.

  16. DR. Jim August 21, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    Dump his ass. I hope Deng you read this your not a commented player ie. Jordan Pippen Grant Paxson don’t even speak their names rookie

  17. aha.ins@live.c?om'
    bill thomas August 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    Deng does have all the tools to become into an all-star player this season! If he can stay healthy without getting a huge injury like he had in the previous seasons. Deng also has to take his game to the next level now that BG is gone. Overall, I think that Deng is going to become a better player this season because he has 2 great PG that can help him reach his goal (hint: Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich)

    bill thomas August 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    I Agree, Deng has all the tools he needs to become an all-star player this year! If he can stay healthy without getting a huge injury like he had in the previous years. Deng also need to step up his game to the next level, now that BG is gone. Overall, I think that Deng is going to become a much better improve player this year because he has 2 great PG that can help him reach his goals. (hint: Derrick Rose & Kirk Hinrich)


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