The 2011-2012 season was tough for starting forward Luol Deng, but despite this, he proved just how tough he is.
Before the All-Star break, Deng played well averaging 15.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 38 minutes of play. He was providing the scoring and defense that was expected of him as well as needed by Chicago. It was on January 21 that he suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist that would affect his play, more so in the second half of the season. This injury limited Deng’s play to 28 games before the All-Star break. Even so, he decided against surgery and would return to playing for the Bulls after a seven-game absence. It did not seem like he would be very affected by the injury since he had shot the ball relatively well after returning. Deng scored in double figures in all but one game.
The past season even featured Deng in his first All-Star game. He had not been voted onto the Eastern Conference team as a starter by the fans, but the coaches felt he had performed well enough to deserve a spot on the team as a reserve. Although he was scoreless in his six minutes of play, his spot on the All-Star team revealed how much respect coaches throughout the league have for him.
Following the All-Star break, Deng’s play saw a bit of a downfall. He played in 26 games averaging 14.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 41 minutes of play. There were times it was very evident Deng’s injury bothered him and affected his game.
On June 8, Deng had one of his worst games of the season as the Bulls took on the Orlando Magic at home. In a losing effort, he would shoot 1-9 from the field. Despite this struggle, he still played 39 minutes.
Albeit, Deng’s game was not as sharp as it was before the wrist injury, his minutes were still consistent with those of the first half of the season, showing not only the persistence he has but the faith Coach Tom Thibodeau has in him. Also, while it was apparent his wrist was bothersome at certain points, Deng still performed well. His scoring and rebounding averages had not taken much of a hit.
During the playoffs, Deng struggled much more. Of the six postseasons game the Bulls played in, he scored less than 12 points in half of them. With Deng needed to provide scoring with the absence of Derrick Rose, it definitely took a toll on Chicago. At the end of the playoffs though, Deng performed better. In game six of the series against Philadelphia, he achieved a double-double of 19 points and 17 rebounds. Over the course of the entire series, he averaged 14 points, 1.5 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 38 minutes of play. Again, Thibodeau expressed his faith in Deng despite the struggles he had.
Overall, Deng had a good season, especially considering his injury. For the season as whole, he averaged 15.3 points, 2.9 assists, and 6.5 rebounds. Compared to his career, Deng only performed worse in points by only a slight difference of 0.7 points. Just by looking at these numbers, it is difficult to tell Deng was even limited. He continually provided scoring and reliable defense, and even with an injury, he never backed down from playing a large amount of minutes.
Final Grade: A-