If you’ve tuned into NBA postseason basketball since the Sixers destruction, I’m sure you’ve witnessed the impressive Chicago Bulls team of late. The Bulls, who finished first in the East, recently demolished the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the second round. Granted it is a seven game series, and nearly everyone expects the Heat to fight back, it’s still hard to ignore how good the Bulls looked.
Mainstream media mainly credits this season’s MVP Derrick Rose and Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau for the Bulls’ resurgence. Rightfully so, those two have been the driving force behind the 21 win turnaround from a year ago. He has instilled his defensivphilosophy which has flourished incredibly in Chicago as Derrick Rose has attacked the rim with arguably the most explosive power we’ve ever seen at the point guard position. With all that being said, there is an x-factor in Chi-town that may go unnoticed: Luol Deng.
In Game 1, Deng pestered LeBron James all over the floor by applying constant ball pressure defensively. He managed to contain James by keeping his total at just 15 points on 5 of 15 shooting. Offensively, he was equally impressive scoring 21 points including four three-pointers, snatching four steals and grabbing seven boards. On the season, Deng has averaged 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Luol Deng shares many similarities to one of our dear Sixers. That certain individual, like Deng, is an aboveaverage scorer but not a go-to guy, a premier defensive specialist and a solid rebounder for his position. Also, in recent years they’ve both been discussed in League circles during trade talks.
Yes, I’m talking about Andre Iguodala.
Iguodalasketched his name in the elite defender discussion this season by capturing an second-team All-Defensive NBA nod. As he excelled on that end of the floor, and his surrounding cast improved their play, his scoring average dropped three points from the 09-10 year. He finished this season with a mean of 14.1 points, 6.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game, but many will argue that he had the best all-around year of his career.
Deng scored a few more buckets (he did benefit from the attention Rose drew), Iguodala dished out a few more dimes, both played hard on defense and now one would likely be considered more valuable than the other despite being relatively similar.
If the Bulls had offered Deng for Dre a few years ago, the Sixers would’ve laughed them off and demanded more. Scratch that, not even a few years ago, but prior to this season. Now though, the tables have turned. It’s not that Deng is a better fit for the Sixers by any means, it’s just the principle of the trade.
At this point of the season, ignoring the remainder of the playoffs, the Sixers would not be able to pry away Deng for simply Iguodala. Deng has excelled for them defending the best opposing perimeter player each night, scoring efficiently, playing 39.1 minutes per game during the regular season and 43.3 minutes per game in the postseason. He’s been a great compliment to Derrick Rose’s talent.
One could make a case for either being better than the other. Their talents are very close and both are class acts. However, as Iguodala’s Philadelphia departure via trade seems inevitable, we need to understand his value compared to other players that share similarities. And at this point, Deng would likely be valued marginally higher than Dre, especially by the Bulls.