With Derrick Rose and (likely) Joakim Noah out for Game Six, Luol Deng is far and away the Bulls most talented player. He's only played like it some of the time though, going 10-30 in the three games the Sixers won and 18-33 on Chicago victories.
He's had an interesting battle with Andre Iguodala on the defensive end, who has done a mostly great job on him. Keep in mind that he hit three desperation three-pointers with the shot clock expiring in Game Five. The Sixers lost that game by 8. Cue Twilight Zone music.Blog a Bull has done the research and it looks like Deng is just better when the game gets down to the nitty gritty, a time where the Sixers (usually!) struggle.
Here's the shooting data for Deng, depending on the time remaining in a quarter and with the game within various margins on the scoreboard, according to Basketball-Reference.com:
I've speculated that Deng needs big minutes to produce most. A lot of two-way strong cogs in a team's strategy excel best after developing a rhythm in their shift. Deng's entire value is in his ability to makes reads on both ends, keep active feet based on those reads, and fill space that needs filling. You don't draw these up before the game, other than preparing reactions for opponents' and teammates' actions, so it should be no surprise that Deng has to read the gameflow to best insert himself into it.
Look at those three-point percentages. Impressive. Also from BaB:
The 76ers are a hell of a defensive unit, no matter which five players are on the floor. They will force the Bulls to drain a ton of shot clock from possession-to-possession. Deng's most valuable effort on offense is in being aggressive to create the best space to get the ball late in those shot clocks and react on instinct -- instead of waiting for the defense to give him that space -- if he's going to be a reason why the Bulls don't get bounced in Game Six tonight in Philadelphia.
Definitely some mutual respect going on here.
I think a lot of his success comes from Iguodala doubling off him and trying to get a steal. Deng almost never beats him one-on-one, but sometimes Dre cheats off and then he has an open look. I don't think there's any reason to double team ANYBODY on this Bulls club right now unless Thaddeus Young is forced to cover Taj Gibson, which he shouldn't be.
Defensively, these may be the two best teams in the league. And that's in spite of Louis Williams and John Lucas III coming off the benches. Does Deng get stopped tonight? Will some of those desperation threes not fall?