By: Santiago Archieri
On July 15th, 2014, the Miami Heat signed veteran small forward Luol Deng. Deng, who spent 40 games last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and had a nine year stint with the Chicago Bulls, is a two time All-Star who brings a lot to the table for the Miami Heat. There are many reasons that Heat fans should be excited for the arrival of the new addition to the four time defending Eastern Conference champions- the Miami Heat.
Luol Deng was drafted seventh overall in 2004 by the Phoenix Suns, and immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls. As a rookie, Deng appeared in 61 games and averaged 11.7 points per game. Since his rookie year, Deng improved very quickly. His numbers went up as a sophomore and in his third year, Deng was already averaging 18.8 points per game and 7.1 rebounds a game. These numbers in points and rebounds were the second highest season average of his career. Deng is a smart and tough defender, which will be key in replacing Shane Battier who retired after last season. Earning a spot on the NBA All Defensive second team in 2012, Deng averages a steal a game over the course of his career. The 6’9 versatile Deng is a defensive nightmare who will create problems for any matchup. Not only can he guard the post against some NBA bigs, but thanks to his speed and quickness-Deng is an asset when it comes to defending the arc. This makes Deng valuable because he is able to guard nearly anyone on the floor. Deng can execute quickly on defense and as Heat fans might remember, he can guard stars. Deng was usually the one to guard LeBron when the Bulls and Heat played each other over the last four years, and Deng did a stellar job.
Defense is not the only strength of Luol Deng’s game, he also provides a various number of offensive weapons. Deng is able to attack, play the paint, and stretch the floor by playing the perimeter. Deng shoots 33% from beyond the arc and 46% from the field over the course of his career. In the 2012-2013 NBA season, when Deng had his last run with the Chicago Bulls, he averaged a career high 19 points per game while shooting 45% from the field over a 23 game span. Deng was then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, in which he played 40 games. With Cleveland, Deng averaged only 14.3 points per game, while playing 33.8 minutes a game, his lowest in the last seven seasons. Deng publicly showed his frustration in Cleveland, saying that he did not like to play there and went on to decline any contract extension that he was offered. After a great start with the Bulls, Deng went on to finish the season in a very disappointing manner with the Cavaliers. However, Deng has proven that he is able to be a solid player on the offensive side of the court. It is highly likely that Deng could be the third scorer on this Heat team behind Bosh and Wade.
Luol Deng has been a healthy player for the majority of his NBA career. From 2007-2010, Deng has struggled with some injuries, missing a total of 63 games in those three NBA seasons. However, Deng has been through injuries and in his career has not missed major time off the court. Expect a healthy Deng to be on the floor this season. At age 29, Deng is the core of Miami’s youth. This offseason, the Heat brought in a lot of young players who will create a more up tempo playing style to the floor.
Miami, be excited for this man. Deng will be a huge part of this new look Miami Heat team. Deng will be happy to be back in a team that is prepared to contend. He is healthy, still in his prime and able to play big starter minutes. Deng is a tough, versatile player, and after having a sub-par end to the season, expect Deng to come out to have something to prove to the rest of the league.