Ricky O’Donnell over at the great Chicago Bulls blog Blogabull put up a piece a couple of weeks ago examining the possibility of Luol Deng playing some power forward this upcoming season. The idea is that the Bulls could incorporate some of the new-age small-ball style of play into their lineups, and use Deng as a stretch-4, a power forward who can shoot the three.
The Bulls, along with their Central Division rival Indiana Pacers (and now the Detroit Pistons too) have eschewed the idea of small-ball over recent years in favor of a traditional two big-man lineup. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have been the starters at center and power forward since day one, except for the (many) times that one of the two has been injured.
But going even deeper than the starting lineup, the Bulls have preferred to go with two traditional big men off the bench as well, relying on Taj Gibson at backup power forward, and a variety of backup centers, like Nazr Mohammad, Omer “The Turkish Hammer” Asik, and Kurt Thomas. Most teams have incorporated some type of stretch-4, small-ball lineup or philosophy into their lineups, whether it be starters or bench, but the Bulls have not been one of them.
O’Donnell raises the idea of using Deng at the 4, not with the starters, but with the bench unit. This would slide Gibson over to the center spot at times, and would allow Tom Thibodeau more options in getting Noah some more rest (god knows his feet need it).
It’s an interesting proposition. Check out O’Donnell’s piece, as he gives some interesting statistics about Deng’s ability to stretch the floor well enough, and to rebound and grind down low against potentially bigger players (although, on many nights, Deng won’t be undersized at power forward since so many teams play small now).
Personally, I would love to see it. I think putting Deng at power forward would help Derrick Rose greatly, by creating more space for Rose to drive and dish. Deng is tough and physical enough to hold is own rebounding and defending in the paint, and would be a perfect defender for other stretch-4s that Carlos Boozer or Gibson may struggle to match up with.
Also, it would be another wrinkle that Bulls opponents haven’t seen, and would be a way to keep the offensive attack fresh and the opposing team on its toes.
Lastly, it would help facilitate a rather good bench scoring unit. As O’Donnell notes in his article, Deng playing at the four could open up a bench unit of Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson. That’s four good three point shooters, along with the potential for good ball movement and spacing.
I am all in favor of seeing Deng play some minutes at the four. There’s a reason the stretch-4 idea has taken over the NBA (it works), and there’s no reason for the Bulls not to embrace it. In the end, Chicago’s destiny will still be determined by their size and defensive tenacity, but adding a nice little wrinkle like this could prove a smart move. The Bulls will need every advantage possible to overcome Miami or Indiana, and this could be another bullet in the chamber.