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Luol Deng

Going into the 2004 NBA Draft, Luol Deng was regarded as one of the most versatile players available, however there was still some mystique to his potential.  After playing only his freshman year under Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke University.  In his freshman year, Deng was outstanding showing a poise and maturity beyond his years.  He finished with averages of 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.06 blocks per game, while shooting 47.5% from the field.  He was awarded Third Team All-ACC honors and was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Atlantic Regional for helping lead Duke to the prestigious Final Four.   

Loul Deng declared his eligibility for the draft and was taken with the 7th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns then proceeded to trade Deng to the Chicago Bulls for future conditional first-round draft pick, and the rights to Jackson Vroman (31st pick).  A few days later, the Bulls signed Deng to a multi-year deal on Tuesday that will pay him $6.11 million over three years with a fourth-year option.

Going into the NBA season, Deng has been impressive.  Following a solid preseason campaign, Coach Scott Skiles had made Deng one of the first players of the bench.  In his impressive NBA debut against the New Jersey Nets, Deng came of the bench to play 38 minutes, scoring 18 points and adding 10 rebounds.  Deng has followed that game with equally impressive outings.    

Over the course of the short season, Deng has since been inserted into the team’s starting lineup although it appears that this move has limited his production somewhat.  In any case, Deng has so far exceeded the team’s expectations of him, being a more reliable player than Ben Gordon, who was drafted third overall by the Bulls. 

Deng is leading his team, and all rookies, in scoring with 14.4 points per game.  He is shooting a respectable 44% from the field.  He is second on the Bulls in minutes played (29 minutes per game), only after starting point guard Kirk Hinrich (34.1 minutes), which provides evidence for his valuable presence on the floor.  Deng is also third on the team in rebounds at 5.3 per game, which ranks forth amongst all rookies.       

There is every indication that Deng production will only increase as the season goes on.  One of his major strengths, besides his NBA-ready body at 6’8”, 220-pound frame including a 7’ wingspan, is the mental aspect to his game.  Only 19 years old, people seem to forget that Deng is the same age as first-overall pick and high school phenom, Dwight Howard, and three years younger than second overall pick, Emeka Okafor.  Coaches are impressed by Deng’s ability to adapt to each basketball game, which is in some ways fueled by his solid work ethic and his willingness to learn.     

It happened in Duke, where Deng went from a role player at the beginning of the season to being the team’s offensive focal point at the NCAA tournaments.  There is no reason that won’t happen in Chicago, particularly on a team filled with first and second-year players.  Deng will get plenty of chances, and I can’t see why he won’t capitalize.  He has the solid offensive game with a consistent mid-range jumper.  He can play with either the back to the basket or break his man down one-on-one.  Defensively, Deng will learn how to use his big body effectively, and his rebounds and blocks should increase as the season progresses.     

The thing I like most about Luol Deng, is that there is a whole lot more to him than just basketball.  Born in Wow, Sudan, as the eighth child out of nine, Deng is part of the Dinka Tribe (Manute Bol was also a Dinka).  His father was Sudan’s Minister of Transportation before immigrating to Egypt than England because of tension in the country that would lead to a civil war.  In England, Deng played on the Junior National Team before coming to play prep ball in the United States where he was one of the highest rated high school players.  He then went to Duke, and the rest is history.  Deng was an outstanding student with many scholastic achievements.  He is fluent in Dinka, Arabic, and English.