Chicago Bulls

Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

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Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 1:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Its no secret that the Bulls are one of the elite defensive units in the NBA. When its all said and done, however, theres a chance that none of their players will reap any individual benefits for their stinginess on that end of the floor.

Luol Deng, in particular, has established himself as the teams top defender. The seventh-year pro has guarded a variety of positions and while hes not considered a lockdown guy on the level of Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, his determination, size and length clearly bother his opponents on a nightly basis.

Not that Deng was a poor defender coming into this season, but playing in first-year Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus help-oriented scheme has elevated his prowess on that side of the ball this season. Even if voters for the leagues All-Defensive Team dont notice, his teammates certainly have.

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I can see a big improvement in his defense, Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, who has now played with Deng in three separate stints with the Bulls after being signed by the team last month, told CSNChicago.com.

The main thing is, hes getting up and putting pressure on guys, hes challenging shots and hes accepting the challenge, he continued. If somebody gets it going, we can put Lu on him and hell shut him down.

Thibodeaus defensive scheme helps him incredibly. Here, the philosophy is were all on a string. If a guy even looks like hes about to get beat, the next guy rotates and everybody else falls in line. I think its a great scheme to have and its been working out, not only for Lu, but for the entire team.

Added Taj Gibson: The minutes hes played just shows he goes full steam. Hes always the first guy to sprint to every loose ball. Every time hes on defense, he has good drops, so I dont see why Deng wouldnt make the All-Defensive Team.

Ronnie Brewer, regarded as a solid perimeter defender himselfBrewers strength is playing the passing lanes for steals, a category in which he leads the Bullsthought highly of Deng before arriving in Chicago. Now, however, he fully appreciates his teammates combination of talent and work ethic.

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I thought overall he was just solid. He was solid on both ends of the floor. If youre a student of the game, you know the game of basketball, I think hes one of the most underrated players in the league. He doesnt get a lot of attention, but he brings it, night in and night out, and he doesnt really get recognized for the effort he makes defensively, Brewer told CSNChicago.com. The little things that he doeshelping, sliding over, taking charges, really slowing down his man, no matter who it isactually being on his team, you can see it up close and personal, the job that he does. Hes done a phenomenal job this year.

Brewer also believes that Deng should receive consideration for postseason honors, but noted that other Bulls have also stepped up their defense.

You can go with a lot of guys on this team. A lot of guys have stepped up out of the norm form what theyve done and taken it a step higher. Boozers playing better defense, D. Rose, Keith is always a solid defender, Joakim is in there, Taj, Omerits a lot of guys on the teambut thats part of the reason were one of the better-defending teams in this league.

Thibodeau, who only stumps for his players through the media on occasion, has made it a point to highlight Dengs all-around game this season.

It would be a shame if Lu got overlooked. By far, hes our best individual and team defender. He takes the challenge, guards twos, threes and fours. Weve had a lot of guys make big improvement this year and the teams committed to each other, and thats why the defense works, said Thibodeau, who cited former protgs Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, as well as Phoenixs Grant Hill, Houstons Chuck Hayes and ex-Bulls Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha as worthy candidates. He plays great defense, both individual and team defense.

Hes an all-around player and he adds a lot to the team. I dont think his statistics reflect how valuable he is to our team.

As an example, he used Dengs late-game defense on Phoenixs Vince Carter in the Bulls narrow win Tuesday.

It wasnt a great game for him for three quarters of the game, but in the end, hes going to do whatever is needed. Hes a great competitor. Vince is a tough player. The only thing you can do in those situations is make him work as much possible, explained Thibodeau. Luol, you cant say enough about what he does for our team each and every night. You cant measure it statistically. The guy has a lot of toughnessmental toughnessand he never quits. Hell keep coming, hell keep battling and you need that.

As for Deng, while he usually eschews individual praise, he did show an interest in receiving acclaim for his defense.

It would be great. With the team defense we have, I think having someone on there makes sense, said Deng. The teams defensive scheme helped me more than my offense. The trust in my teammates being there, just knowing the system in and out, kind of just going with the game plan, taking those guys strengths away.

I really like the responsibility of just taking whoever the main guy is, if I can. Other nights, some other guy might be playing him better. All year, Ive been taking that challenge and it really comes back to everyone giving something different to the team when one thing isnt going right.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft