I have a certain sense of empathy every time I see Luol Deng play. It could be the first minute of a game and I already feel bad for him. This has nothing to do with him as a player, but more about what the Chicago Bulls expected from his last season. He averaged 16.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG last season, on par with his career numbers. And while those numbers might not scream the $14 million he’s set to make this upcoming year, just watching how hard he plays for a relentless coach like Thibodeau makes him worth the money.
Deng came into last season without a fully-healed left wrist (ligament). The long season took a toll on him as he had to burden more of the load with Rose out, leading to him falling sick in the playoffs and dealing with spinal tap complications (botched lumbar puncture). Deng averaged 39 mpg during the regular season, and almost 45 mpg in the five postseason games he played in. His minutes on the court are way too high and the main culprit for the late-season injury struggles.
With Rose back and defenses focused on him, and guys like Butler and Noah continuing to improve, let’s hope that Thibodeau can finally give Deng a breather. Watching him do as much as he does for Chicago is tiring enough.