Dime Mag has a great piece titled “The Top 10 Guys That Need to Break Out This Season“. For the story photo on the site they chose none other than Luol Deng.
Of Deng they write:
After signing a monster deal before last season, Deng played in only 49 games and had his worst season across the board since his rookie year. While Derrick Rose may be the man in Chicago, Deng was certainly paid as such. And if the Bulls want to do some damage this year, they’re going to need to have Deng step up – especially with the departure of Ben Gordon.
Deng has some fierce battles ahead of him. He will undoubtedly have to play through pain. He’ll have to adapt to Derrick Rose and figure out how to prosper in the offense. It can’t just be mid-range Js anymore. He has to run. Cut. Get to the basket. He’ll have to play against teams that have figured him out and “have a book” on him. This was obvious last year to even the most novice of basketball fans: teams know what they want to do against Deng. And it works.
Deng is likely the X-factor in the determination of how far the Bulls go once they reach the playoffs. If he can comeback and average 18 on 50% shooting while getting back his lateral quickness as a defender, the Bulls may get past round one. If it’s the Deng of last year, or an unhealthy Deng (69 games missed over past 2 seasons) than we might be left to wonder where all the points are going to come from. You want to forget about the departure of BG? Luol Deng has to score the ball.
Bulls fans can look forward to 2010, to be sure. But Deng has an albatross of a contract. If he does not come back to form and excel, he will be movable only in the Ben Wallace/Larry Hughes salary-dump type deals.